The 11th day of October every year is International Girl Child Day. This year, the day was marked on Tuesday last week with the main focus in Kenya being mental health problems, early child marriages and the alarming teenage pregnancies. Other issues such as Teen pregnancies, mental health, FGM and early child marriages also came to light. The celebrations this year come at a time when Kenya is witnessing an alarming increase in the number of teen pregnancies recorded which stands at 45,724 cases (18%) according to data from the Ministry of Health. As a result, Kenya ranks , third highest in teen pregnancies in the world.
December is fast approaching and with it comes a lot of festivities some of which are detrimental to the well-being of girls. As parents and guardians, it is the high time to have the awkward conversations with your children. Some of the topics that you could address, that are otherwise frowned upon are:
The sex talk
The sex talk is one of the topics that parents find hard to discuss with their children. Unfortunately, not discussing sex places the child at a disadvantage due to the availability of misleading information. As a result, discussing sex with your children with the aim of informing and educating them is necessary.
Make them aware of the negative effects of early sex which include as early pregnancies,dropping out of school, childbirth complications and child care responsibilities when they should be in school.
Here are some starters:
- Abstinence; teach them on the importance of abstinence until they come of age
- Inform them on sexual health & rights.
- Have a frank talk about early pregnancies, its consequences and how it affects their life
- Talk openly about relationships. Also create a safe environment where they can talk about anything.
Normalize conversations on mental illness
In the recent past, there have been cases of children committing suicide, evidence that even children are susceptible to mental health issues. As parents normalize having conversations on mental health issues.Create a safe space where your child can share their concerns varying from (anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other issues causing them sleepless nights) without fear of being judge or misunderstood. Also remember to seek professional help for your child where necessary.
Eradicate the oppressing tradition of FGM
Even though Kenya has come a long way in the fight against FGM, the practice is still there in some areas. FGM is a painful experience for the young girls who go through it. Many victims suffer depression due to lack of a safe space to share their traumatic experience and fall into depression. Start helping by breaking down stereotypes attached to FGM, the fear, the shame and prejudice. Educate girls on their right of deciding what happens to their body and refuse communal pressure to undergo the cut. Also, support the victims by listening and avoid ridiculing.
She is a child, not a bride
Early child marriages are not only practiced in nomadic communities but also in towns and cities across the country. Early marriages expose young girls to gender-based violence, sexual abuse and both physical & mental manipulation. Holding workshops in schools as well in villages gives young girls the chance to voice their problems and seek help. Involving mothers in promoting the importance of education, also, goes along way in the fight against the vice.
Peer pressure: the plight of many teenagers
Many teenage girls make poor decisions for example premature entry into romantic relationships due to peer pressure. In this digital era, almost every young girl has access to at least one social media platform where they meet strangers and socialize with peers. Moreover, platforms such as dating apps are easily accessible to them. Unfortunately, these expose them to sneaky relationships with strangers. As a parent;
- It is crucial to have conversations regarding relationships with teen girls.
- Protect them from cyber bullying, heart breaks and abuse.
- Talk about red flags, healthy relationship tips, and the risks of online dating .
- Create an approachable environment where they share and not hide their relationships.
Promote a body positive mindset
Educating young girls on self-appreciation is a task that every parent, guardian should take on in the wake of demeaning comments on body image on social media. You can;
- Teach young girls on physical and mental changes. This helps keep their self-esteem up.
- Teach them on feminine hygiene, hormonal imbalance, skin health, weight and body acne. this helps them aware that it is part of growth.
- Preach self-love to the youngsters. Let them know it’s important to be kind to one self.
Sensitize them on their rights and overall well being
Equipping young girls with information on reproductive health, sexual rights and menstrual periods doesn’t expose them to explicit information but weakens female stereotypes. Teach your daughter about their menses, how to say ‘NO’ in uncomfortable situations and their rights as a girl child. All these protect them from manipulation, equips them with knowledge regarding their well being and makes them open and confident discussing these topics in the future.
Featured Image: Unsplash.