Clinical psychologist Dr. Lourdes Carandang has expressed alarm over accounts of tots who now include killings in their games.
“One boy was heard telling his toys, ‘Line up kayo diyan and I’ll kill you one by one,’” she related.
There is also the story of a 6-year-old girl watching the evening news with her mother, who chanced upon footage of a reported extra-judicial killing (EJK) victim whose face was bound in packing tape.
The image had obviously disturbed the child, leading her to wonder aloud whether she or her mother would eventually suffer the same fate.
Carandang, a child and family therapy specialist, refuses to turn her observations into a political statement. Current events, however, have taken a grim turn, and children are not spared from witnessing them, albeit on a flickering screen, she noted.
Present times call for greater parental vigilance, Carandang stressed, since killings have become the new normal.
“That’s not good,” she said. “You would think the children are just watching TV, but they are also absorbing the information. Now, for many of them, killing has become a normal word, an everyday thing.”
Carandang warns that unless parents step in and explain with mindfulness the EJK phenomenon to their children, this could cause the erosion of core values taught within the family—more specifically the dignity of human life and respect for others.
The psychologist explained that, by themselves, parents could be less critical in filtering information received through media, since they already have solid concepts of right and wrong as adults.
Not so with children, who may be watching the news or hearing stories from adults and may assume that murders and violence delivered in regular doses are normal.
“Parents have to be aware that they are also absorbing the air of heightened violence,” she said. “We must be aware that this is abnormal. There might be a message that it’s okay not to respect the dignity of another person.”
Carandang was quick to add she does not blame any specific person for the situation.
Respect for human rights
“I’m just worried about the impact of violence all around us,” she explained, “the lack of respect for the dignity of the human being, because respect is a core value. In society and the family, one of the non-negotiables is mutual respect. We adults must work so that respect is still a value that must not be eroded. We must say something.”
Cussing on live television has also become a cause for concern, Carandang noted. Children who hear adult-speak peppered with cuss words are likely to assume that this is acceptable, she said.
The problem is that the new media would do daily live coverage of a person in authority often spewing “bad words.”
Carandang said she has encountered an adult female who has found herself cursing more easily now. Initially, the woman was unaware that it was her exposure to a known personality’s cuss-sprinkled monologues that set off her new habit, the psychologist pointed out.
“Even parents may not be aware because the effect is subliminal,” she said. “You might find yourself na biglang nagmumura. We are not aware it is affecting us adults. Akala natin kayang-kaya natin, but the effects are strong.”
If adults are not immune to what is shown onscreen, imagine the impact on children, Carandang said. Among the possibilities are a child suddenly bullying a sibling, sometimes using the same cuss words heard in media.
How to reprimand
In such a case, the parent must immediately call the child’s attention:
“You say, ‘Ooops, what if I do it to you?’ Make the child aware of the impact of his action so he learns empathy. ‘Masakit, ’di ba?’ Make the child aware that what he is doing is not right, it hurts and if done to him, it would also hurt him. Insulting, shouting, those are already manifestations na walang respeto.
“When a parent sees it, he/she acts on it. It becomes worse when the parent does nothing. If the parent lets it pass, the message is, what happened is okay,” she added.
“Parents must remember awareness, consciousness and mindfulness,” she explained. “Those three things—awareness that my child is bombarded by this kind of stimulation. Pay mindful attention—not cursory attention, but full attention to what is happening to child.”
Carandang admits the job is challenging—with parents juggling family, professional and social responsibilities. “But even with 20 minutes each day used mindfully, the child is made aware she is the center of the parent’s attention,” she said.
Carandang noted that when a child is confident that a parent is able to offer unadulterated attention, eventually he or she would start a conversation about whatever concerns her.
Dr. Honey Carandang will head the Parenting Academy 3 forum on “The Power of Compassionate Discipline” at the Henry Sy, Sr. Auditorium of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, on March 4. Her morning session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Fee is P1,500. An afternoon in-depth workshop on self-compassion and stress management follows, 1:30-4:30 p.m., for an added fee of P1,000. Call 0915-0097652.