A Broken Home Should Not Mean A Broken Child

South Africa is unfortunate enough to have one of the highest separation and divorce rates in the Western world. This inevitably sees many children hailing from ‘broken’ homes. I put ‘broken’ in inverted commas, because although almost anything is better than divorce once there are children in the family, often separation offers some semblance of stability. After all, a destructive relationship is not a positive environment in which to raise children.
And yet, all too often, parents seem to forget that it is their relationship that isn’t working, and not the one between parent and child, and today, I would like to implore parents to apply tremendous amounts of self-discipline to prevent fighting in front of their children.

If you are going through a separation or divorce, consider these points:

  1. Never use your child as a weapon against your partner. Little ones are usually close to both their parents, and are often highly aware of the tension festering in the home. Children may feel torn between their two parents, even before the actual separation, and this will influence them negatively, possibly even leading to depression.
  2. Children often assume that they are cause of the problem. This sense of guilt is reinforced (however unintentionally) when, during the bitter period of separation, you no longer talk to your child about “Daddy” or “Mommy”, but refer to your spouse as ‘your mother’ or ‘your father’, almost implying that the disapproval is connected to the child.
  3. Just because your divorce is finalised, it does not mean it’s all smooth sailing; a period of either healing or increased hardship begins. Problems frequently arise on the financial front, but try to take this into account before the divorce. Of course, necessities must be provided, but even more important is the love and security your child needs. A humble home and fewer clothes and toys are things that can change in time, but once the inner life of a child is negatively affected, problems can be laid down for life.

The fact of the matter is that divorce is a reality. In time, children will settle and help define the new lives everyone must lead. If your little one seems badly affected, consider professional counselling to help prevent a spiral of emotional and behavioural problems, but rest assured, a good outcome is possible.