The recent news over the video leak at the Chandigarh University girls’ hostel not only made headlines but also sent shocks into every parent’s mind about their child’s safety. Such incidents also disturb young adults, creating uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and panic within them.
With camera access just a fingertip away, it has made privacy breaches, voyeurism, and abuse, etc. easier than ever before. I know these are not usual conversations in most Indian homes, however what can you do to empower them and how should your child deal with it?
These conversations must happen at home as the frequency of such incidents are on the rise. In times such as these, you as a parent together with your grown-up child could develop a road-map to navigate such situations.
Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is usually challenging, stressful and uncomfortable for young adults. They encounter complex problems in the real world when they enter college for the first time. Also, quite often, they live independently, and by this stage, most parents have minimal knowledge or control about what’s going on with their children or are privy to information in as much as they want you to know.
But such incidents of voyeurism, threats and blackmail are extremely tough for anyone to navigate, let alone a young adult. So, how can you create an emotionally safe space for them to reach out to you. Here are some tips:
Open-minded approach: It’s crucial for parents to be support systems for their youngsters. Have conversations with them to equip them about body safety, cyber safety, voyeurism, binge drinking, date drugs, gambling, etc. Let me use an example here. When we board an aircraft, the flight attendant always talks about safety parameters not because we are going to crash, but to prepare for the unlikely event. Similarly, broaching the topic openly will build a bond of understanding and will let your child know that they can come to you if they face a crisis.
Ask: Has there been similar incidents in your college or hostel?
What do you think would be the impact on the target person?
In your peer group, do you think they send personal information by choice or under pressure? What’s your stance on it?
Do you think I could support or help you in such times?
Uphold Security and Trust: At the outset, there is a big difference in crisis situations in families when your adult child’s self-created and illegal issues versus helping one who is at the receiving end and victimised. Take, for instance, a young adult caught in drunk driving vs someone who is being blackmailed with morphed images.
Both are crisis situations and can make anyone feel vulnerable, insecure and scared. It would be helpful to prioritise their need –safety, emotional security and support – to regain mental strength and stability. Secondly, nurture your relationship with them. It is already a difficult situation, so avoid blaming or victimising anyone.
Say: I am here for you, unconditionally.
You are not alone; we will deal with this together.
In the self-created scenario: Say – This situation is frustrating for me. But for now, I would like to prioritise your needs and well-being. We will get through this together.
I am here for you and we will deal with this. Later, a remedial plan needs to be made out so this never happens again.
Look After Yourself – When your child makes poor choices, goes against your values, or is in trouble, you will find yourself questioning your parenting abilities. Was it something I did? Where did I go wrong in my upbringing? Am I a bad parent? Such doubts can create havoc in your mind, making it harder to get through the crisis. Vent your sadness, anger, shock to trusted friends and/or family or professionals. A healthy and emotionally supportive parent is better positioned to help their grown-up child. Problematic situations require composure and strength. Remind yourself, that you are not accountable for every decision or mistake your child makes.
Avoid Unloading Your Anger – You probably find it frustrating that your influence on your child diminishes as they move from their teen years to 20s. When young adults share their problems with their parents, they receive backlash of irritation, anger, shame and I told you so statements. Naturally, as parents, you are concerned, but this usually leads to further resentment. When your adult children share their escapades of irresponsible behaviour, use it as a time to provoke their thoughts.
ASK : Have you and your friends ever discussed how to deal with this if it happened to one of you?
When you sit with X in a car after you all have had a lot to drink. What would you do if he/she loses control of the car or met with an accident?
Lastly, have these conversations as often as you can to be a part of their world, in a way they feel safe and open to come back to you should a need arise. Also, spend some time thinking about what can you do when your grown-up children are making poor decisions and end up in trouble, be it romantically, financially, emotionally, or with the law?
Shubhika Singh is a senior consultant psychologist specialising in young adults and the co-founder of Kolkata-based Innerkraft.com