‘Think about the children’

A Harare man, Charles Chitsike, recently approached the civil court seeking a protection order against his estranged wife, Elizabeth Maguta.

Chitsike claimed that Maguta’s violent nature was disturbing him and affecting the performance of their children.

“We separated in 2004 and l am staying with the children. I allow her to visit the children occasionally, but she makes me regret my decision as she is a violent person and always picking battles with me,” he said.

“Her behaviour is distressing our children. As a result, their school performance diminished.”

Divorce and separation correlate positively with diminished school achievement and performance, says psychologist Daniel Porter.

“Elementary school children who experience parental divorce immediately begin performing worse academically than their peers from intact families,” he adds.

Unfortunately, parents do not think about the consequences of how they treat their soon to be ex spouses and how they continue to malign them in front of their children who often feel loyal to both parents.

Stressing the need to safeguard children’s interests when divorcing, children’s rights activist, Tadana Mhlanga, encourages parents to pay serious attention to their children’s interests when divorcing.

“Children can be emotionally traumatised by divorces especially if it is nasty or if there is an intense custody battle,” she says, adding: “Divorce permanently weakens the relationship between children and parents. It has ripple effects on their future and leads to an increase in anti-social behaviour.”

Clever Ndanga, an expert in children’s issues, says parents should also find ways to mediate and minimise the destructive effects on their children, sentiments echoed by Dr Phil McGraw, in his book “Family First”.

“It is hard to control your ex even if he or she is uncooperative. You need to continue to behave with integrity and dignity,” Dr Phil says. “In the long run your kids will be better off and they will admire you for taking the high road.”

Ndanga sums up: “Studies show that children do better emotionally and academically when both parents are involved in their lives. They (children) need to know that both parents love them.”