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Entrepreneur Deepa Kumar is trying to make it easy for parents to have those ‘difficult’ conversations with children on their bodies, puberty and child sexual abuse too.
Most entrepreneurs have their hands full running a business, and time is always at a premium. Getting involved in another initiative at the same time sounds daunting indeed! Not so for Deepa Kumar, Founder of Yashram Lifestyle, which sells maternity and innerwear brands for women.
With a growing venture already on her plate, Deepa is also the woman behind the howtotellyourchild.com website, which aims to make it easier for parents to talk to their children about sensitive subjects, including good touch-bad touch, puberty and their bodies.
On a telephonic chat, I caught up with Deepa on what led her to start this initiative, and the response she has received.
Tell me, what inspired you to start HowToTellYourChild.com?
Deepa Kumar: I am a mother myself. I have two daughters. I have realised that I cannot have a CCTV and monitor my girls 24/7. It is important that we sensitise our children and empower them. Children are not worried; rather, the devil is in our heads. Neither is it fair to curb their childhood, nor is it fair to transfer our fears to them.
My mother guarded me a lot as a child and I feel that has compromised my childhood. If parents are willing to talk and the talk is made easy, the power will be in their hands and children will first go to them with any question.
Neither is it fair to curb their childhood, nor is it fair to transfer our fears to them.
You have also created books for children on understanding puberty. Why did you add these?
Deepa Kumar: We have created both videos and books. The videos are mostly short, around 5 minutes, whereas the books have a more personal touch to them. In the book, a child is interacting with the characters (dragons) Mr and Ms P. There is a limitation in communicating through videos as they are short.
What kind of research did you do before you came up with the website?
Deepa Kumar: I spoke to a lot of parents and interacted with people online. There is so much information available online. I read about the laws in various countries, their statistics and their work in this area. It struck me that children ask questions about their bodies all the time and we should help them understand that they are responsible for their own bodies.
Your books have dragons as the main characters Ms. P and Mr. P. How did you come up with these characters? Why did you choose dragons as the characters?
Deepa Kumar: P stands for puberty. Like it or not, children have to go through it. Each and every one of us has gone through it. And dragons are mythical characters. Dragons invoke a feeling of fear in us, but they can be befriended too – just like puberty. Why can’t we be happy about growing up?
What were some of the challenges you faced when you decided to set out on this journey?
Deepa Kumar: The whole experience was very positive although the very journey itself was challenging. I felt as though we had dealt with the devil and killed it! The whole journey of putting this together and arranging the logistics taught me a lot. We had to work with independent animators, voice artists and many others, and it was a fun-filled experience.
How have parents reacted to this initiative so far? What have children’s reaction been to the CDs and books?
Deepa Kumar: Oh! Both parents and children reacted very positively to this. I have had requests from many people to translate the videos into different languages. Infact, one Montessori teacher from Mexico wrote to me saying that she shared the video with her class and one of her students confessed about an uncle who makes her feel uncomfortable.
Would you like to share any incident/story that has touched you during this journey?
Deepa Kumar: The incident I mentioned just now was a very heart-touching experience for me. The teacher wrote to me saying that the child spoke to her about her uncle and after the teacher helped her deal with him, now the uncle hangs out much less with the girl. Such instances make my entire effort worthy. As the teacher put it, our video made an impact on a child who lives across the seas and that’s beautiful.
What message would you like to share with other parents?
Deepa Kumar: Parents should use tools like these. There is no easy way out to deal with our children’s questions. My daughter has been asking me the meaing of the ‘F’ word since a few days. I haven’t told her the meaning yet, but I don’t intend to lie to her about it. For now, I have told her that she is too young to understand it.
Let’s be honest and transparent. Yes, it will be awkward, but if you can have this conversation with your children, it will empower them. We cannot always protect them. They must learn from their mistakes.
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