If you follow the news, it seems that more and more children are suffering in Malaysia lately. We’re constantly bombarded by upsetting news like murdered babies who died in unthinkable ways, young girls who were forced to marry men old enough to be their father, or religious school boys who were sexually abused by their teachers or wardens.
Despite the New Malaysia, it looks like nothing much has changed. The combined selfishness of parents (who would rather ‘save face’ than drag the perpetrators to justice), society’s indifference towards underage marriage, and their need to ‘protect’ educational institutions with rampant cases of child abuse are hampering our progress.
It’s time for all of us to step up and be a better adult to protect the younger generation. Celebrate Children’s Day, which falls on the first Friday of October or November 20 in some countries, by teaching your kids a few things for their safety and security.
These are the 6 responsible things parents can do to protect their children physically, emotionally, and financially.
1. Protect your children’s future: Teach them about financial literacy and responsibility
Based on a study by the Asian Institute of Finance (AIF), the majority of Malaysian millennials lack financial literacy, which results in them living on the financial edge and experiencing money stress, where many are unable to pay their debt on time, leading to other problems.
Bad money and debt management could have a domino effect on your children as well. For example, if you’re too buried in your debt, you might not be able to pay for your children’s education, thus stripping them off their rights to gain a good education.
Some irresponsible parents would even take out the funds that are supposed to be for their children so they’d be able to pay for their debt or other emergencies. This is why financial literacy is so important, as the stakes are high for those who spend recklessly.
Raise your children to be financially literate, and teach them about financial responsibility, including saving and investing their money. You can start opening a junior savings account for your children (preferably with high interest rates), and encourage them to save a portion of their monthly pocket money to the fund.
Also, help them to invest in their college fund by opening an SSPN-I or SSPN-i Plus Account with PTPTN. The financial institution will also be organising the ‘SSPN Saving Week’ to inculcate saving habits in children. Happening from October 5 to October 7, the programme will be held at various locations throughout Malaysia. See SSPN’s website for more details.
Your children will learn how to save creatively and consistently, receive door gifts and ‘welcome gift’ for each account opening (while stocks last), and stand a chance to receive a ‘welcome cash’ deposited into their SSPN account.
For those with extra cash, consider enrolling your children in financial literacy classes with a financial literacy education provider, like MoneyTree Malaysia. They’ll be organising a free trial class on financial literacy for children age 9 to 12 on October 6 and October 7 in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.
2. Protect your children’s growth and wellbeing: Make them aware of their rights
All children will need a good environment to live in and their basic needs met in order to develop into a properly functional individual that will benefit humanity.
If one of their rights is taken away, some children would grow up to become a dysfunctional person who will contribute to the vicious cycle of social ills like drug abuse, theft, child abuse, rape, incest, or underage marriage (which is often forced).
According to UNICEF, children in Malaysia have the right to be protected from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, and incest. Other rights include access to education. Use the Child Rights Education Toolkit by Unicef to help you as a caregiver.
3. Protect your children’s dignity: Help them understand the concept of ‘consent’
Rape and sexual abuse happen because the perpetrators either don’t understand the concept of consent, have a psychiatric disorder (e.g. paedophilia), are immoral, lack any respect towards other people, and/or harbours deep-seated hatred against women.
Just because someone appears to be normal nice and pleasant doesn’t mean he or she is. Teach your children about consent and to never let their guard down. Help them to see what’s wrong and right when interacting with adults.
Let them know the red flag behaviours of a predatory adult. For example, touching their body parts that shouldn’t be touched or other things that make your children uncomfortable. This article provides some good points for parents to teach their children about consent based on their age.
Assure your children that they can always come to you if anything’s wrong and that you’ll always have their best interest at heart. Make them feel safe and secure.
In collaboration with UNICEF Malaysia, Art For Grabs and G-Blog will be hosting a public talk called ‘Is MalaysiaBaru Safe for Girls & Women?’ on October 7 at Publika.
4. Keep your children safe: Teach them how to get help during an emergency
If your children are aged 7 or older, it’s the perfect time to teach them about how to get help during an emergency, whether they’re at home or outside.
For starters, ask them questions like “What would you do if our house is on fire?” or “What would you do if daddy has a heart attack?”
This allows you to discuss what constitutes an emergency and what to do if one occurs. Role-playing with your children is a good way to address various emergency scenarios, as it will encourage your children to be confident when handling an actual situation on their own.
Let them know who or what number to call during an emergency, for example, the Malaysian Emergency Response Service (MERS) number is 999. Create an emergency contact sheet for your children to carry wherever they are, like this one.
Walk them through some of the questions the emergency operator will ask, for example:
- Where are you calling from? (Where do you live?)
- What type of emergency is this?
- Who needs help?
- Is the person awake and breathing?
5. Raise your children to be caring adults: Guide them to develop emotional intelligence
Cultivating empathy and other good traits is best done while one is still young and growing. You can help your children to develop their emotional intelligence by teaching them about emotions, nonverbal cues, and the basic rules of politeness; encouraging them to talk about their feelings; involving them in charitable activities, or anything that you see fit.
Reading and watching TV together also allows for a discussion about good or bad behaviours.
6. Protect your children from diabetes: Feed them healthy food
Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia, according to a news report. Feed your children nutritious foods in correct proportions, and prevent them from consuming unhealthy things like fast foods or sugary beverages.
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