A mother of two young daughters, Deepa Kumar is the Founder and CEO of HowToTellYourChild, a unique digital platform which aims to empower every child to say no to Child Sexual Abuse. HowToTellYourChild comprises of never seen before easy video lessons for children, child safety programmes, online counselling with a certified panel of counsellors, workbooks with bright and colourful illustrations and worksheets for parents and teachers. The worksheets are topic based fun activity sheets for children with guides for parents and teachers. The ultimate motto is to make everyone a child safety champion. Team Optimist talks to Deepa Kumar regarding her whole journey. Excerpts:
1. How did you conceive the whole idea of ‘HowToTellYourChild’?
Like any mom, I am protective of my children and want them to be safe from all forms of abuse. I also know that I will not always be there with them to protect them. And we all know the best way to protect children is to empower them to protect themselves.
The toughest thing to talk to them was sexual abuse as I felt awkward to talk to them about sex. And I also knew the earlier methods of teaching children like Good Touch / Bad Touch, No-Yell-Go-Tell, Underwear Rules were not sufficient. There have been scenarios where children have been asked to take off their clothes, to talk about explicit things, hugged and kissed with a bad intention. Unfortunately, as there is no touching of private parts here, the child is confused and not recognize these as forms of sexual abuse.
Hence I introduced the concept of 5 alerts – See Alert, Talk Alert, Alone Alert, Touch Alert, and Hold Alert. Combined with this I created concepts called Caretaker List and Circle of Love for young children to understand different forms of sexual abuse. I realized that this concept along with giving different scenarios for children became very effective.
In fact, I created an imaginary dragon friend called Ms. P to make the lessons fun and NOT scary for children. After all, one cannot empower children by scaring them.
I also wanted to make sure that even if a child has been through an unfortunate incident, the child should not feel like life is over. Life is too beautiful to let someone else’s evil intent to destroy it. So the lesson is honest and positive in all scenarios.
2. Did you face obstacles or hurdles in the beginning?
Honestly, I don’t see obstacles. Yes there are challenges on a daily basis, I just deal with them and move on. I would say the biggest challenge was getting to a space that I am unfamiliar with or have no training in, but that’s what I believe has brought novel and fresh thinking into this space.
3. What is the format or mode of functioning of ‘HowToTellYourChild’?
Among our activities aimed at raising awareness and preventing child sexual abuse, we train parents on how to talk to their child about otherwise difficult topics like sexual abuse, puberty, menstruation etc. We also conduct awareness sessions for adults at corporate spaces, neighbourhood/apartment associations, business establishments like malls, restaurants, and salons among many more, and for teachers at schools. We train counsellors and mental health practitioners as well. We offer counselling services for parents who require assistance in talking to their child about sexual abuse and puberty. Our comprehensive copyrighted content includes fun and informative books and videos on CSA and puberty tailor-made for children.
4. What are you planning ahead with the whole initiative?
I’m so happy parents and teachers in over 40 countries have watched our videos. I love hearing feedback, so it is my earnest request to readers to mail me at email@example.com and let me know what you think. Mr. P and Ms. P are not done yet! They are cooking more stories. So watch out for those. Going ahead, we plan to introduce modules on bullying, safer sex, and gender equality while simultaneously updating our existing modules on CSA and puberty.
To know more about HowToTellYourChild, readers can log into: www.howtotellyourchild.com/