• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Take special note of the quiet child



Something sinister is going on in our communities which require our full attention. This is really a matter that is carried forward in hush whispers and everyone is keeping up appearances in the family. Yes, in our families. It is the issue of incest, rape, and abuse both physical and emotional. I just finished reading a truly tragic story of a 21 year old African American whose parents abused her emotionally for so long that it was difficult to believe. Eventually on the cusp of her 18th birthday and on the verge of a top level college scholarship, she was sent out of her home by her parents to live with a set of uncles. Being 18 and seeing as you are expected to be able to cater for yourself and live away from home at that age in the United States, she decided to request for a shelter from the government declaring herself as homeless. Unfortunately the records showed that she had been offered accommodation at her uncle’s and she was neither vulnerable nor desperate and so she was denied.


In the end she had to go and live with these uncles whom she hardly knew. By the second month of her stay she was brutally and violently raped by one of them. My blood ran cold as I read the story through. But this is a true story and while it seems stranger than fiction, incest is going on everywhere in the world, alive and well. In Nigeria, it is growing in gallops by the day.


Stories abound daily of sick men taking advantage of their daughters, mad men taking advantage of their step daughters (kids who called them Dad all their lives); mental institutions who take advantage of their patients. But aside from incest, there are many stories of sexual and emotional abuse making the rounds in schools, homes and workplaces.


To wrap this story, the African American girl refused to abort the child and had her uncle’s daughter, a lovely little girl. No one fully recovers from these kinds of torture and abuse. It remains in your head; it repeats itself in your mind; you become scared of men. The psychology of it is as devastating as it is scary. But talking psychology, parents continually miss out on their children’s issues until the issues become monsters, big huge monsters that eat their children up.


Drugs, cults, suicidal tendencies, Bulimia Anorexia, poor self esteem, prostitution, etcetera. It is so important as a parent to keep an eye on your children, particularly the ones that are quiet, those ones that seem a little distant from the family. The one that tells you very little about school, tells you less and less about their day and talk very little about their friends. These are the ones a parent must try to draw out. You must look out for the child who disappears into their room too often in the day, levitating when everyone else is downstairs and going downstairs when everyone is upstairs. These are the ones you must consciously become friends with especially when they deliberately try to shut you out of their lives.


All said, this is easier said than done. The quiet children are very difficult to access and are the ones who can easily get into trouble. It’s even more dangerous when they make friends outside the home whom they trust, friends who can lead them astray. This therefore makes it imperative for you as a parent to try to find out what makes them happy, what interests them, what they like to eat, watch, wear etcetera. It is very difficult to follow through on this because it is a balancing act. As a parent you cannot even afford to overdo it. If you pay too much attention they get offended and recoil into themselves. Working with quiet children can be tough but its a learning curve. Too much will be too much, too little will be too late. Best bet, become their friends, draw them out and chit chat. Surprise them by knowing what they like. Pay attention to them but not overly so. Love them but don’t spoil them. This is the only way. For the quiet child has a whole chest of secrets and many corridors in their hearts, many of which might never be known to you if you don’t pay attention.


Those kids who used to be chatty and gradually became quiet need special attention. You need to find out why they are disappearing into themselves. Be extra concerned; anything can be going on – incest, loneliness, bullying and everything in between. Open your eyes before you lose your child to someone else or to bitterness. Pay special attention. Listen to them and don’t dismiss them. Take them out to lunch or something like that. Drop casual conversation about abuse, bullying etcetera and watch their reaction. Their reaction can tell you a lot of things. When they finally accept to talk, don’t judge, don’t scold. Listen! Handle this really gently. In the meantime, parents please open your eyes.


Eugenia Abu