By Kate Halim
During the long holidays, some parents seek ways to keep their children occupied until school resumes. One thing they do is to send the children to spend the holidays with family. Saturday Sun spoke to some of them about this age-long practice. But their opinions differed for different reasons, the uppermost being moral and economic.
Rita Ilevbare who agreed that she can allow her kids to spend the long holidays with her relatives added that it is only on one condition: if the relatives are her siblings from the same parents. She noted that her kids have been bonding with one another from birth and it won’t be an issue if they spend time with their cousins. Talking about the close relationship she shares with her siblings, she stated that her younger sister always delivers her kids in her house, and oftentimes stays back to care for them before leaving for her home.
She reiterated the condition with some caveat: “Our children know our family values, the dos and don’ts. And we exchange holiday visits. But if the family members they have to spend some time with are not my mother’s children, I won’t allow them to go except I accompany them.”
She took this decision a long time ago, she said, because she doesn’t have an in-depth knowledge of the socialisation process of extended family members and can’t say if it will conflict with what her kids are used to. She explained: “To avoid stories that touch the heart like incest and other vices like drugs and fraud, especially in this era of tech fraud, I won’t allow my kids to spend the long holiday with family members.”
Grace Zemehe Jere James-Li is a mother of four and a businesswoman based in Jos. She said that the stories she had read about sexual molestation, especially from family members, is enough reason for her to take precautions and keep her children at home with her at this time. She vowed never to allow her kids to spend the holiday with family members except she goes with them or if she has a serious health challenge. She said that she and her children would stick together no matter the challenges she might face having them at home.
But she quickly corrected any wrong impression that her statement might have created in your mind by noting that not allowing her children to spend time with family members doesn’t mean that she suspects or doubts their intentions. She added that she would only allow her children do so after she had educated them on the signs to look out for when they are faced with danger.
Incest or sexual abuse is also the reason others gave for disallowing their children from spending the holiday with their relatives. Mrs. Faith Eze-Okenyi added that imagining her children being sexually molested without their being able to defend themselves or reveal what is happening to them scares her.
She said: “My kids are still young. I can’t allow them go for holiday because I don’t trust anyone or other people living with the person. At my children’s age, they won’t be able to tell me if they are being abused or maltreated. Maybe if they get to the age when they are self-aware and can report any wrongdoing to me, then I might allow them to spend time with relatives.”
Mr. Innocent Ugah who resides in Abeokuta at present and is married with two children confessed that because he was sexually abused as a child, he won’t allow his kids to spend the holidays outside his home. He added that the world is full of sexual predators who might look normal and say the right things but still prey on children and take advantage of their naivety.
He recalled: “I was eight when a family member started molesting me. This is because I usually spend the holidays in their house. This continued until I was 11. I couldn’t tell my parents because they wouldn’t have believed me. It was my uncle who stole my innocence and he was a pastor. You can imagine what would have happened if I opened up to my parents about what he was doing to me. They would have beaten me for lying against an elder.”
Ugah said that because of what happened to him as a child, he developed trust issues. He stated that the only person he trusts with his children’s safety is his wife and he would rather go through the stress of having them at home until school resumes than having them suffer from lifelong trauma if something goes wrong while they are away from home.
Mrs. Blessing Nifemi Bankole, a civil servant based in Lagos also has the same reservation about allowing her kids to go spend the holiday with her relatives. “The world is no longer a safe place,” she intoned.
According to the mother of four, gone are the days when children were treated like sacred beings and protected by adults even if they were not related to them. She said: “While I was growing up, adults looked after other people’s children. But today, it is adults who are hurting children and taking advantage of their innocence.”
Economic hardship and insecurity
Apart from sexual molestation, she also pointed at the poor economy as the reason she won’t allow her kids to spend the long school holiday with relatives Given the spiraling cost of foodstuffs, it will be unwise, she added, to send her kids to be a great economic burden to any of her relatives. She posited: “I know how hard it is to feed these days and sending them to go and add to the mouths of any of my relatives would be gross insensitivity. I don’t think that it is right to unleash your children on anyone now because things are hard. Since they are home with me, they will learn to manage. We will eat whatever I can afford and hope for the best.”
But Mr. Obinna Udofia doesn’t see anything wrong with his children spending the holiday with any of his siblings. With a wide grin on his face, he said that he was looking forward to them going to enjoy their holidays with his elder brother and his family at Awka in Anambra State.
The Lagos-based businessman, who had been married for 11 years, told Saturday Sun that his first child is eight while the twins are six. According to him, he comes from a loving and close-knit family and doesn’t believe that any harm can come to his kids if they spent time with his relatives.
He recalled that when he was a kid like them, he enjoyed his long holidays because he visited his uncles and aunties and came back home with goodies. According to him, children shouldn’t be locked up at home all the time with their parents. They should be allowed to explore their world and learn new things. He said: “Taking them to summer school or camp is not rest. They need to visit other states and discover things for themselves. This is why I love sending them to my siblings’ homes during long holidays. I know that they will be safe with them.”
Mr. Cosmas Asuquo told Saturday Sun that he can allow his children to spend only two weeks with relatives at this time because he feels they need to experience new things. He noted that most children these days lack the same upbringing he had while growing up because they are being sheltered a lot.
While noting that insecurity is a huge problem in Nigeria right now, he however said that won’t stop him from letting them enjoy their childhood. He said: “The only thing we can do as parents at this time is to pray for their safety wherever they are instead of hiding them at home all the time. They can face danger anywhere. Bad things can happen to them even in our homes. It is only God that protects.”