How Do We Prevent Our Girls From Being Taken Advantage Of?

Admittedly, grooming is a complex issue with no one solution. Rather, we need efforts on multiple levels to prevent it....

There are steps that we can take to deter our daughters from engaging in activities that aren’t in line with Gurmat. In this post, we review how to encourage Kaurs in their Sikhi and give some pointers on how to get started with the conversation of dating.

Note: It is very important to speak with boys as well. The follow up to this is: "The Talk" With Boys

Educate and communicate

First thing’s first: We must strive to educate our children about Sikhi from a young age. The younger we start, the more we can help children adopt our Guru’s values sooner.

In the early days, the best way to educate our kids is through Sakhis. We wrote a whole post about it – check it out here! Once kids get a little bit older and are able to think with greater complexity and have better reasoning and literacy abilities (fourth grade and onwards), we can begin to do Gurbani Veechar with them. Ideally, we can sit with our kids once a week and reflect on a shabad from Gurbani WITH them. A wonderful way to prepare for Gurbani Veechar is to listen to Katha on that Shabad from Giani Thakur Singh Ji. Actually, instead of diving right into Shabad Guru, it may be best to start with Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Vaaran, which have been given the prominence by Guru Arjun Dev Ji as the keys to understanding Gurbani. To prep for veechar on Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Vaaran, we recommend listening to Giani Kulwant Singh Ji (Ludhiana Vale). For those who struggle to understand Punjabi, I don’t actually know of any English Katha on Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Vaaran – but if anyone else can recommend it or if Basics of Sikhi starts this, I’ll link it here.

The key to keeping communication open with our kids is to talk WITH them, not AT them. If we make an earnest effort to do this, it’s much more likely that our kids will be more comfortable with listening to us and work towards understanding us and where we’re coming from. Incorprating weekly meetings on Gurbani Veechar will help us all practice listening to each other and work towards understanding one another on a deeper level.

Model ideal behavior

The second thing we can do to encourage our Kaurs to become educated in Gurmat and to adopt Gurmat values is to become educated ourselves and to practice Gurmat in our lives! In other words, if we don’t educate ourselves, how can we expect our kids to be educated? If we don’t practice ourselves, how can we expect our kids to practice Sikhi? Being a Sikh means always learning and we MUST try to model this for our kids.

Furthermore, we should model healthy relationships for our children with our partners and other family. In every family, there are always people who are more difficult to get along with or who are toxic. How we handle toxic people in our family gives kids a blueprint on how they can handle these difficult personalities when they inevitably pop up in other parts of their lives. Therefore, we must be mindful with how we handle these relationships.

Specific pointers for “The Talk”

 “The Talk” about dating, sex, and relationships is one that can be difficult for many parents to broach. If families regularly did Gurbani Veechar and learning of Sikhi together, ideally there will have been loads of practice communicating and expressing oneself that should make more difficult conversations, smoother. Moreover, hopefully the following tips will help make that much needed conversation a tad bit easier!

  1. Start with WHY. It’s important that kids understand their purpose in life and as a Sikh. Their understanding of this fundamental Sikh concept will go a long way in framing this conversation. Potential discussion questions include:
    • What’s the point of this human life?
    • How do you define success in life?
    • What does Guru Sahib Ji say the point of life is?
    • How does Guru Sahib Jee define success?
  2. Dating and Sikhi. It’s important to be crystal clear on this – as Sikhi is actually crystal clear on this: There is NO dating in Sikhi. It may seem restrictive or alien or even unnecessarily harsh, especially for those of us living in the West, but if we pause and think about it: Could we imagine Mata Gujri Ji or Mata Sahib Kaur Ji or Mai Bhago or Bibi Bhani Ji dating? It seems ludicrous! Helpful is to educate ourselves on the purpose of marriage in Sikhi and what the Anand Karaj means. Again, the more educated we are, the better equipped we’ll be to answer questions about this sensitive subject.
  3. Uniqueness of Sikhs. It may be helpful to emphasize that Guru Ji wants us to be different. We aren’t like everyone else – Sikhs are supposed to strive to be ideal human beings. Part of this striving to be an ideal human being is to walk a very difficult, incredibly rewarding path:

bhagataa kee chaal niraalee ||

The lifestyle of the devotees is unique and distinct.

chaalaa niraalee bhagataeh keree bikham maarag chalanaa ||

The devotees’ lifestyle is unique and distinct; they follow the most difficult path.

(Raag Ramkalee, Mehla 3, Ang 918)

  1. Ask them to name ideal qualities in partners. After brainstorming ideal qualities, ask if they think someone their age is capable of demonstrating these qualities. The point is, teenagers are still developing themselves and they likely will admit that they won’t be the same people in 10 years or so. Therefore, it’s better to wait!
  2. Validate feelings. It’s important to validate our kids’ feelings about this, even if we don’t agree with their feelings. Their feelings are massively important to their perception of reality and when we supress feelings (e.g. “That’s silly. Why would you say that?” or “It’s wrong to feel that way…”) it can lead kids to shut down and to become disconnected from their emotions. Instead, we can validate their feelings and help them to become more emotionally competent and expressive (e.g. “Yeah, it definitely seems really restrictive that there’s no dating in Sikhi, especially when it seems like everyone around us is dating” or “It must be really hard, huh, to feel like the ONLY one who doesn’t date or have a boyfriend”). By validating their feelings, we demonstrate to our kids that we “get” them – that we understand where they’re coming from and are with them in their experience.
  3. Active listening. In addition to validating their feelings, active listening is CRITICAL to allowing kids to feel heard and understood. Active listening is when we listen for the underlying meaning or the complete message of what our kids are trying to communicate with us. Ways to demonstrate active listening include:
    • Actually pay attention to what your child is telling you – DON’T start formulating your rebuttal while they’re speaking. Really hear them out.
    • Nod and encourage your daughter to continue sharing with you, sometimes by murmering “mmhmmm…”
    • Paraphrase what is being said, WITHOUT judgement: “It sounds like you’re feeling…” or “What I’m hearing is…”
    • Ask clarifying questions like, “What do you mean by…”
    • AVOID INTERRUPTING. Sometimes, we need to steer our kids back on track if they’ve gone on a tangent, and summarizing what they’ve said is a great way of doing that or asking a clarifying question. However, avoid interrupting to interject your own thoughts and viewpoits when they’re still expressing theirs.
    • Respond appropriately. Once you’ve actively listening, then respond honestly and sensitively. Honor that it was likely difficult for your child to share this information with you and share your thoughts or point of view appropriately and respectfully.

Wrapping it up for now…

Admittedly, grooming is a complex issue with no one solution. Rather, we need efforts on multiple levels to prevent it. However, starting at home is the best place to start with providing our Kaurs with the necessary education. Additionally, it would be ideal to have classes in all Gurdwaras that teach Sikhi to youth to catch those youth whose parents aren’t as well-informed about Sikhi.

These are just some ideas that we as parents and caregivers can put into action to help educate our daughters (or our kids, in general) about Sikhi and more specifically, about dating. Of course, grooming is vastly different than dating, but if our girls are steadfast in their Sikhi and know flat out that dating is wrong and WHY (from a Sikh and Gurmat standpoint), they may be better equipped to rebuff the advances of unsavory individuals who try to prey on our children.

Resources

Sikh Youth UK

Sikh Awareness Society

Bhai Jugraj Ji’s hard hitting talk – a response to the BBC’s special news report on the grooming of Sikh Girls

 Active Listening guide from mindtools.com

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