Separation: Don’t forget the children
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IT is a fact that sometimes parents are more content and happier living apart than they are living together; but when parents separate it is a very emotional time for all concerned. Children cannot be sheltered from the traumatic events that unfold during a separation; therefore, parents must do their best to lessen the impact on their young lives.

Children have the right to see both of their parents as long as it is safe for them to do so. If parents cannot speak amicably about how the child’s time should be divided between them, then a third party, (who does not have a vested interest) should be allowed to assist in making arrangements that suit both sides. The hostility or bad feelings that may exist between parents must not be visited upon the child or children of the union.

Children will always be the innocent victims of a break-up and the younger they are, the harder it is for them to understand and cope with their parents’ separation. This is one reason why parents should aim to make the transition of their separation as smooth as possible for children. Even if it means getting a neutral person involved to mediate, don’t put the well-being of children at risk just because of adult problems, and don’t use children as pawns in adult affairs.

Some adults make children feel guilty after they have spent time with their estranged mother or father. It is not the child’s fault that he has two parents who love and care for his welfare; this is a good thing. Even if it might not be on an equal footing, children need both parents in their lives, whether they have a lot to offer or a little. Maintaining a relationship with a separated parent should be encouraged rather than frowned upon, but it must be a healthy relationship for all concerned. Making sarcastic remarks to the child about being with his estranged parent or asking a host of questions only puts the child in a difficult position, where his loyalty may be divided and he becomes confused about the right things to say or how to react. This is not the way a child should spend his/her childhood, plagued with emotional debris caused by adults.

There is sometimes a new partner that the children will need to get used to, either on the mother or father’s side. Adults may not foresee any problems with introducing their new partner to their children but to a child, it may seem like a betrayal for a parent to bring a new person into the space that was once occupied by a beloved mother/father. Children feel a gamut of emotions at every traumatic event in their lives, but many are unable to put their feelings into words and seldom do parents discuss issues with children that will affect them, neither do they encourage them to voice their opinions and feelings.
They commonly accept that children will adapt to any new situation that is forced upon them and that their feelings, given the events taking place in their lives, are irrelevant. But one day children will be adults and EVERYTHING that happens to them shapes their outlook on life. They deserve to be treated accordingly and spoken to respectfully about the decisions that are being made that will affect them.

Parents must keep a good level of communication between them, speaking nicely to one another and not bad-mouthing each other in front of, or within earshot of children. Although emotions can run high amid a separation, self-control must prevail. The child belongs to both parents and if one is called names and criticised by the other, the child who is a product of both parents, will also be affected by the disparagement meted out on the

absent parent.
It is wrong for any parent to make a permanent decision for a child based on how that parent might feel at the time. The best interest of the child should be the catalyst for all decision- making, bearing in mind how the child feels today and how the child might feel in the future. Children evolve as they grow and situations and circumstances change. Decisions concerning children should not be written in stone, but should be open to negotiation between two caring adults who have the best interest of their child at heart.
If you are separated and you want to see your child strive and grow with as little damage from your separation as possible, then you must learn to compromise and be flexible; even if and when the other parent is making it difficult, think about the children. If you bear them and their future outcomes in mind, you will do what is right for them in the best way that you can. Always let them know that you care and that you are there for them, do not let children become victims in an adult battlefield.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION

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