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When Children become Collateral Damage

Breakups and separations are a hard pill to swallow, and no matter how amicable or smooth they are, children will invariably suffer. Children become collateral damage. However, the extent of such suffering or damage, how such a traumatic event is tackled, the long-term effects of such a situation, and how that child learns how to deal with the new reality depends on us adults, the parents.

The reasons for separation are endless, but irrespective of the reasons, good will and good intentions must prevail if we want to lead a mentally healthy life and, most importantly, ensure a healthy society in the years to come. How is this achieved?

Our judicial system, international and local legislation apply principles which are not only child-oriented but are the core of the child's rights in a world where hard decisions are taken by adults for them, or on their behalf. But parents must do their share and strive to reduce the collateral damage as much as possible. Simple things and decent (not necessarily saintly) actions can go far. The vast majority of parents act in ways which they believe are in their child's best interests, but this may not necessarily be the case, and when or if they realise their own mistakes, it could very well be too late.

It all boils down to common decency and giving that child the priority he / she deserves. Childhood is all about happy memories, play and laughter and it definitely shouldn't be about mama and papa bickering over any material object. It definitely shouldn't be a battle about who gets to spend time with that said child or who 'wins' a custody battle. Children should be given the opportunity to understand that irrespective of the breakup or the reasons that led to it, they are loved by both parents in equal but potentially different ways.

Not all parents are deserving of their children, but all children are deserving of a happy and carefree childhood.

Children should be shielded from their parents' differences, unless absolutely necessary, and should be allowed to enjoy their innocence until they are mature enough to learn and understand their parents' history and story. Children should be allowed to feel comfortable with both parents without the fear of getting caught saying the wrong thing to the wrong parent. This cannot be achieved strictly by legislation or by Court decrees or judgements. This can only be achieved by realising that children are like sponges and what we inject in them today, what they perceive as 'normal' today, will be the basis of their psyche and reasoning when they, too, become adults. Thus, stopping this vicious cycle now is vital to ensure that no child grows up to become an entitled parent or a parent who thinks that exposing children to constant arguing and bickering is somehow ok, or is fearful of becoming a parent due to the underlying psychological fear that his / her child will might actually go through the same bitter marriage experience.

Not all parents are deserving of their children, but all children are deserving of a happy and carefree childhood. The children's interests must, at all times, prevail.

Dr Abigail Critien

Family Law - Employment Law - Civil Law

This commentary should not be regarded as legal advice. If you are facing legal issues affecting your family, kindly contact us so we can assist you.

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