Monday, 30 September 2019

The influence of the divorce process of parents on children

Your separation should not divide your family (By Linda Nell). 

While a legal divorce is an event, an emotional divorce is a process that occurs minimally over several years and maximally over the course of a lifetime.

Typically, divorce proceedings begin several years before the actual date of separation.  It starts when one of the partners begins to experience feelings like disillusionment, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and alienation.

As part of the family structure children experience similar feelings of insecurity and disillusionment.

In helping couples to successfully negotiate the ending of their marital relationship, it is vital for the divorce professionals to understand the underlying dynamics of the family as a system, especially the traumatic experience it has on the children.

Ahrons & Rodgers point out: “The family going through a divorce does not break up but rather is restructured and reorganized. While marriages may be discontinued, families especially those in which there are children…continue after marital disruption. They do so with the focus on the two ex-spouse parents now located in separate households” This arrangement is difficult for children to adapt to.

The presumption is that dysfunctional marital relationships cause dysfunctional behavior patterns in children. There is not a direct linear causality, but there is unmistakably a circular nature of causality in family interactions. The actions of the parents may influence the behavior of the children in the family to such an extent that the child is being reported by the school or other significant others as being naughty, disobedient, ill-disciplined and or acting out behavior.

Although divorce is an experience of growth, change, and positive individual development for some, it is a psychological and emotional death for others. For most families (parents and the children) it is a time of tremendous stress, disruption, chaos, uncertainty and craziness.    

With the appropriate help from understanding and knowledgeable professionals, the process of divorce can be navigated successfully.

Although a couple separate, both parents will have full responsibilities and rights towards the minor children (Children’s Act, Act no 38 of 2005, section 18). The parental responsibilities and rights that a person have in respect of a child include:
  • To care for the child;
  • To maintain contact with the child;
  • To act as guardian of the child; and
  • To contribute to the maintenance of the child.

Why Mediate?

Divorce/Couple/Family mediation can provide a more courteous alternative to separation or divorcing parties to negotiate a settlement. In mediation, solutions are sought which consider the needs of all family members – mediation, as far as possible, aims for a win-win outcome, where both parties feel they have equally compromised on issues.

The parties negotiate for themselves and aim for outcomes which meet their own standards of fairness and which are in the best interest of their children. Mediation furthermore provides an experience for future resolution of conflict.

Mediation, according to John Haynes (A guide to divorce mediation 1989), is:

  • It is non-adversarial – the parties are partners in decision-making.
  • It is mutual –both parties must agree, or it does not work.
  • It empowers – each spouse controls the decisions regarding his or her life.
  • It is goal-directed – the focus is on the future lives of the parties and their children
  • It is confidential – unless there is a legal duty on Mediators to disclose (e.g. where it is said or appears to be child abuse)
  • It is voluntary.
Accredited mediators are specifically trained to do mediation and reach an agreement between the parents of minor children when the parents wish to separate. A parenting plan is then drawn-up once the parents have reached an agreement after mediation, to share the parenting of their children specifically on:

Care and primary residency;
Contact; and

The best interest of the child or children is paramount. The voice of the child must be heard (Professionals who are qualified to determine what a child’s views and wishes are in relation to the issue that affects their lives, will do the interviews or assessment of the child).  The Children’s Act, no 38 of 2005 as amended, brought a lot of changes to deal with issues affecting children, as well as the rights and responsibilities of parents.

Child Welfare Tshwane has well trained accredited mediators who do mediation on any conflict resolution matter regarding families and children.

Our vision at Child Welfare Tshwane is Safe children, safe families, and safe communities in Tshwane.  We understand that a separation or divorce has severe impacts on the family and the functioning of the family unit, but we always keep the children’s best interest in mind.  It is important for a child to still feel that he/she belongs and will be protected, even though the relationship of the parents have disintegrated.

For more information, contact Linda Nell or Winnie Moshupje on 0124609236. 

Reporting child abuse is your responsibility

It is the responsibility of every member of society to report child abuse or suspected child abuse. So, what is regarded as child abuse?

Child Abuse has many forms, as described in the Children’s Act, Act 38 of 2005:

  • Abandonment: a child deserted by the parent, guardian or caregiver; or where a child has had no contact with the parent, caregiver or guardian for at least three months for no apparent reason;
  • Abuse refers to the ill-treatment or any form of harm including assaulting with any form of deliberate injury; sexually abusing a child; bullying by another child; labour practices exploiting the child or any behaviour that expose or subject a child to behaviour that may cause physical or emotional harm;
  • Neglect refers to failure in the exercise of parental responsibilities to provide for the child’s basic physical, intellectual, emotional or social needs; and
  • Sexual abuse refers to sexual molesting or  assaulting a child or allowing this to happen; encouraging, inducing or forcing a child to be used for the sexual gratification of another person; using a child in or deliberately exposing a child to sexual activities or pornography, or procuring or allowing a child to be procured for commercial sexual exploitation in any way participating or assisting in the commercial sexual exploitation of a child.
Abuse in the form of sexual abuse is often not visible, and unless the child tells someone this will go unnoticed.  This includes enticing a child to participate in sexual activities but also peeping, flashing, fondling or exposing the child to pornographic material and other acts of a sexual nature.

In an article by ML Hendriks in the Medical Journal of South Africa, it is stated that the mandatory reporting of abuse of children was placed under the international spotlight with the sentencing in the United Kingdom of the alcoholic mother of Hamzah Khan (aged 4) who died in 2009 from starvation, but whose body was only discovered in 2011.

In South Africa, the father of 2-year-old Theopollus Groepies was sentenced to 25 years in prison for throwing his son against a wall and killing him.  According to the article, these are not isolated incidences.  The author states that violence against children is a universal and all too prevalent phenomenon.

According to the South African Children’s Act no 38 of 2005 (as amended), a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. 

Who to report to:
Suspected cases of abuse can be reported to the Department of Social Development, the South African Police Services or an approved child protection organisation like Child Welfare Tshwane.  You can call our Risk Assessment Centre in Sunnyside on 012-3439392 or send an email to

What information is required:

You may remain anonymous when reporting suspected child neglect or abuse, but we do need the full details of the child. This includes name, address, parents name(s) and name of the alleged perpetrator.  There is a form (Form 22) available at child protection organisations that can be completed. The residential address of the child is required as it helps to determine which Organisation will be the one to investigate. The City has been divided into demarcated areas which are serviced by various child protection organisations including Child Welfare Tshwane, CMR, SAVF and Rata.

What happens after a case has been reported:

A social worker (and sometimes the SA Police) will interview the child as soon as possible.  The family and the alleged abuser will also be interviewed, and a decision will be taken on the child’s safety. Should it be deemed unsafe for the child to remain in the current place the child may be temporarily removed and placed in a place of safety, pending a thorough investigation. However, a Court must issue a Court Order for the child to be taken to alternative safe care.  This can be a child and youth care centre, foster care or place of safety.  The child’s age will often depend on the choice of care.

Child Welfare Tshwane works within the boundaries of the City, from Mamelodi and Eersterust, to Atteridgeville and Olievenhoutbosch. 

Monday, 16 September 2019

Child abduction or rape – how can I support them?

In light of the recent uproar in the media of little Amy-Leigh’s abduction as well as the current ongoing trial of the alleged rape incident occurring at a Dros restaurant in Silverton, we as a child protection organisation would like to make a definite stand against these acts and express our dismay regarding these two horrible incidents and all the other incidents of this nature. These kind of unfortunate incidents give a clear indication that children are a vulnerable group that easily gets victimised and needs extra protection from those aiming to damage the lives of our young ones.

One of the first feelings that parents and families experience after their children went through some trauma, is guilt. Yes, it is natural to feel that way, but guilt brings about other negative feelings towards yourself such as worthlessness and feeling as though you failed your child. Our feelings always impact on how we act – in other words, negative feelings cause negative actions. Therefore, feelings of guilt might cause you to act in a negative way, without you even realising it. This is where self-forgiveness is really vital so that your thoughts and feelings about yourself can change which will bring about positive reactions. Never underestimate the sensitivity of your child and how they are able to sense your feelings of incompetence. This will then make them feel insecure and that nobody can take control over their situation and pick up the pieces on their behalf. Therefore, is you as a parent need to speak to a professional in order to rebuild yourself, do it.

After trauma, children either react out heavily or suppress their true feelings. Children are different and will react differently to their trauma. It is therefore important to be present – physically and emotionally. Provide even more nurturance than before. Children are able to process their trauma a lot better when having a strong support system. If you decide to take your child to see a therapist, do not expect the therapist to fix your child on their own, but rather commit to play “co-therapist” and work together with the therapist so that your child has support throughout. Introverted children tend to bottle up their feelings after trauma and we have seen how some children appear emotionally weak due to a lack of support at home.

Even though children go through tough times following trauma, practicing discipline towards them should never be avoided as it provides them with structure as it something they are in great need of after trauma. Children also thrive on predictability and it is therefore important to try to, after a traumatic event, to communicate effectively to them and inform them of any plans considering them. Give your child a voice to articulate their needs to you and assure them of your commitment to try to adhere to it. For those children experiencing nightmares, allow your child to tell the traumatic event over and over to you so that the memory could form part of their consciousness, which can decrease nightmares.

Even though I mentioned that you need to forgive yourself and move on after a traumatic event happening to your child, we acknowledge that you will do your best to survive this ordeal. We further acknowledge that you as a parent are also a victim when your child gets targeted and that you have not done anything wrong. Despite this, we have found that when parents apologise to their child for what has happened to them, it brings about healing for both. This does not mean that you admit doing something wrong, but that you apologise to your child for what has happened to them.

Sometimes it will be needed to engage in family therapy as siblings and other family members might also experience a great deal of fear and uncertainty regarding their future safety. This is an ideal opportunity to work out a safety plan as a family where you decide on the best possible ways to protect one another and yourself. Children need to see that they are not alone.

Lastly, even though your child and family you might struggle to deal with the trauma form whatever incident involving your child, it is important to try really hard to get back to your daily routines as quickly as possible so that you do not give the trauma the upper hand and allow it to control your life. This will also help your child and family to find your rhythm again. Survivor thoughts and feelings will lead to survivor actions.

If you need assistance with trauma relating to your child, contact us at 012 460 9236 so that we could provide your child and family with debriefing support.

Stay safe!
Written by Yolandi Singleton (Supervisor: Assessments and Therapy Unit)