Children need the support and presence of both parents to grow into well-rounded human beings. While divorce breaks up homes, it should not rob children of this opportunity. MWERETI KANJO looks into how parents can maintain a healthy relationship with each other and their children after divorce.
In the face of a divorce, children stay with one parent and the other becomes a visiting parent. The role of the non-residential parent is often undermined because it is the other parent that becomes recognised at school, church, with friends and so on.
While other children have managed to rise strong from divorce, sometimes children from broken homes are unruly, rude and or promiscuous. This might stem from feelings that the divorce is their fault or that they are not worth anything special. Ideally, if children are to do well in life, they need the support of both parents.
So how can divorced parents keep their family intact?
Psychologist Eric Umar says, in the first place, parents and the children need to appreciate the fact that the quality of family and life is compromised and will never be the same as they used to know it. But this is not reason enough to work towards a better life.
He says, primarily, the residential parent must make sure that they allow adequate space for the children to share with the estranged parent. He points out that restrictions on when and how children can talk with the non-residential parent may widen the gap between that parent and the children or vice-versa because the children may start to think of the other parent as a victim.
“It is important that the estranged parent talks to and reaches out to the children as frequently as they want. Equally important is that the parents to avoid talking ill of each other to the children. In fact, they may not want to ever talk to each other but for the sake of the children, they must keep a positive relationship.
“The situation is much trickier where either parent or both have taken on a new partner. In this case, the parents must make sure that they do not get the third person involved. This is because at the end of the day, the children might hate the new person in the life or love them more than their parent. So the trick is for the parents to keep a positive relationship,” advises Umar.
Takondwa Khama (not her real name), who grew up in a broken home says she evened the score with her parents by refusing to keep close with either of them. She says this made her feel better about herself because she was not choosing either parent over the other.
“The divorce is already hard on us children and when they keep fighting after that, it just makes it worse. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like there never was love between them and you would think that children would be enough to keep any two people together.
“I just wish they saw past their issues and realised how much they hurt their children,” says Khama.