I don’t have a daughter, though I’ve often said my sisters are my children, but if I did have a daughter, I would want to talk to her about womanhood. This is what I would say. (PS: I write this letter regularly, not because I am pining for a daughter but because it helps me navigate how my understanding of gender changes and grows over the years, I highly recommend it).
While preparing an introduction for an event at school my stepson was told not to reference his stepmother because it is “inappropriate” to do so. In India we encourage secrecy about everything that deviates from the norm but teaching children to hide divorce hurts them more than you realise.
We often tell young girls they are fated to “grow up faster” than their male peers, and to enforce this lesson a disproportionate amount of household responsibility is put on girls. From cooking to learning sacrifice, we deem that this enforced precocious behaviour is “maturity”. In this we discuss whether this “maturity” is inherent or just another enforced code of gendered behaviour?
Growing up in India, most of us never saw our parents express any physical affection to one another and very few of us are comfortable displaying affection to our partners in public. This may seem like a personal choice but it speaks to a much deeper culture of shame, taboo and violence.
The Indian ideal of sanctity holds the traditional family unit above all else in society, but the truth is that there are thousands of step-parents around the country who take the same roles and responsibilities in the lives of their step-children as traditional parents. As one of these parents I find the social and legal aspects of stepparenting are much harder to navigate than the emotional.
News about rape and sexual violence is more easily thrust in the faces of children now more than ever, and as guardians we may not always know what the best way to address that with them might be. We suggest specific, sensitive and well-researched tips on how to address rape and sexual violence with kids.