Getting things out in the open
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(Names have been changed to protect identity)

SERENA was 14 when she came to the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) for help. This is her story. She said:
“For a long time, I believed that I did not like my mother. But now I realise that it’s not that I dislike her; it is just that she does not fit my ideal of how a mother should be. We have never bonded, and the only reason I am obedient to her is that I am afraid of her. Does that sound right to you? Should a daughter be afraid of her mother?

“We have never had a proper conversation, because all she does is order me around. I wonder sometimes whether she really loves me or truly cares about me. I want to have respect for her, but I don’t. From what I’ve been able to piece together, as a young baby, I was neglected.
She was always leaving me with neighbours while she went out of town to party. She never returned when she said she would, and the neighbours eventually took me to my grandmother, who was poor.

“I was there one day in a dirty ‘Pampers’ and being fed sugar-water, because that was all ‘granny’ had, when a family-friend visited. The way I heard the story, is that the lady took me home, and told my grandmother, ‘When the mother comes, she can collect her baby from me.’
My mother collected me, but less than two weeks later, she asked the lady to have me again. I ended up spending most of my formative years with this lady, who lives alone in a flat house. This lady has taught me how to cook and sew, and she makes sure that I try with my schoolwork.

“After I wrote the ‘Common Entrance’ exam and I started to grow tall, my mother decided that she wanted me to spend time with her and my younger half-siblings. This is when my nightmare began. She would collect me at random times from the flat house, or send one of her ‘man friends’ to get me. There is nothing wrong with a mother wanting to be with her daughter, except for the fact that my mother never spent quality time with me when I went to her home.

“On occasions, she went missing for days, leaving us children there with barely any food. When she was home, she spent most of the day lying down with her phone, and hardly any clothes on. She would say, ‘Serena, bring this.’ Or ‘Serena do that.’ I was expected to cook the food when there was food, while she did nothing. Many nights we were treated to ‘fast-foods’ like fries and chicken or pizza, instead of a proper meal. And after sharing with my siblings, I still went to bed hungry.

“I am thankful for the counselling sessions that my mother and I have been attending at the CPA. I have been able to talk openly about how I feel, and although I am still afraid of my mother, I am hoping in time things will change between us.”

The CPA says: Many adults have ingrained traits stemming from unresolved childhood issues, some of which can be destructive, that they accept as ‘normal’ behaviour. They have no idea where or how the traits were cultivated. Also, adults become so busy living their ‘normal’ lives, that very little introspection of ‘the way’ they live their lives is ever carried out.

A child’s sense of well-being can be affected by distasteful adult behaviour; it can damage a child’s emotional and social development. Neither adult nor child may realise when this is happening, and the child may seem resilient and appear to be coping well despite the odds. However, how can anyone know the psychological effect that might be taking root beneath the surface when children are made to witness and take their cue from adults who behave badly?

The CPA works with family members to assist in areas where family relationships appear dysfunctional, or on the point of collapse. It may be difficult for adults who have never lived through certain experiences and emotions to share the same with their children, but it is important to break the cycle. Counselling can help adults and parents to at least acknowledge that there is a problem, and also assure them there is plenty of room for improvement.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at

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