Children at Protests – Yay or Nay?
“Child abuse”, “germs”, “not safe”, “irresponsible mothers” are some of the comments we have been hearing about taking children for protests at various locations in Sri Lanka. While safety of children is of utmost importance, how much can one shield them from the reality of what is going on in the country right now?
For the past 4 months we have no fuel, no gas, no medicines, reduced food, no imports due to mismanagement of the economy by the present ruling party led by failed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his useless family and cabinet of 225 jokers, money launderers and murderers. Children have been stuck at home from the Covid lockdowns to the present day economic Armageddon. To pretend to them that everything is ok is a lie and an insult to a child’s ability to grasp that things are not ok and that life is going to be very hard.
Children are not fools. They do understand – to a lesser depth than an adult would – but still they do sense unrest, anxiety, anger, and instability. These things are debilitating to endure when growing up – they do have long term repercussions. So pretending that everything is ok is not the answer. What children do need is an understanding of what is going on and why – in terms they can understand and in ways that they can comprehend. What is important is to reiterate to them that they have someone – parents, family, friends – no matter what and that they will get through this. Not false positivity but not doom and gloom either. So in this light, engaging children in protests or voicing dissent is not a bad idea.
Some of us grew up with rather vocal and staunch people in our families – people who spoke against injustice and stood up for what is right. My mother has protested in her time as did my aunt, my grandmothers and my father. They have in their own ways always been vocal and taken actions and a stand against injustice. This moulded me to be the person I am today – unafraid to speak out and unafraid to call out injustice. Being civic conscious was a norm once upon a time – today it is a novelty. In this light, having your kids exposed to taking a stand against injustice, is possibly one of the most inspiring things they will live through and these memories will mould them into adults who understand why it is important.
Yes safety is important but today staying at home silent is not going to help anyone – we have been this for too long. So bringing your child to a neighbourhood protest is not a crime. Yes there’s a risk of teargas and police / military violence. It’s a risk that a parent is going to have to assess and take. Some may be willing to take that risk and some won’t. I would say there is no right and wrong answer here. Just that hiding away is not always the answer and exposure is not always the answer either. So it’s a calculated risk and a decision that parents would have to take.
But remember those of us “exposed” to such things grew up to be civic conscious coz those memories never left us and reminded us of what our duty as citizens of this country is.