How your Family is Being Affected by Baby Mommy and Daddy Drama
The former manager of Black Coffee and agent, Amaru Da Costa, came under fire last week when celebrities like Boity Thulo called him out for allegedly biting his baby’s mother and trying to “abduct” his son from her. We’re constantly being inundated with salacious details about fights between separated parents on social media and reality television shows and we often forget to consider the effects such conflict has on mental health.
While baby mother and father conflict may range in severity, some escalating to violent behaviour and others being mildly annoying, there’s no denying the psychological stresses that affect parents and children in these situations.
Divorce and separation often involves a great loss of intimacy, lessened financial and emotional support and increased responsibilities that include child care, financial burdens and pressures in the workplace. It’s no surprise then that “marital conflict and divorce can create serious instability in the family and insecurity in a child”, this according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
While children from divorced families may often face depression and anxiety, proper support from parents can contribute to good post-divorce and separation adjustment for children. Dr Siya Mjwara, a therapist & wellness coach from Cape Town who specializes in relationship and family matters, spoke about what the lack of support can do for children in the midst of a divorce.
“What I’ve noticed in practice is that children who were not adequately prepared and supported during the divorce process are usually those that struggle the most”, says Dr Siya. “These children struggle mostly with common symptoms of trauma. They usually experience anxiety, depression, regression, anger etc.”
Some parents may try to remain emotionally distant from their co-parent partner, which is something that musician Ciara seems to have done with her baby daddy Future. Others, like actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin, have opted for conscious uncoupling to enable amicable relations and respect even after a divorce or separation.
“The best co-parenting relationships are usually characterized by respect, healthy communication and the like. Most importantly, the parents have learned the valuable skill of prioritizing what is best and healthy for their children, despite their personal differences or unresolved conflict”, says Dr Siya.
Besides clear boundaries and good communication, the existence of a shared goal (the well-being of your child) has the potential to encourage a positive co-parenting experience and can contribute to the welfare of your child. When both parents know their value to the child and can prioritise that, there is a clear purpose that all parties can benefit from.
Knowing your partner’s value to your child as well as your own is important. Take celebrities and co-parents Anna Farris and Chris Pratt who both seem happy in their new lives apart. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight Anna stated that even though break-ups come with a lot of pain, “Chris and I work really hard [to co-parent] because we have Jack. That is sort of the long game idea and making sure Jack is really happy, which makes us really happy. We have sort of the luxury of circumstance. You know, we are both in other loving relationships…”
While breakups can cause a lot of stress for children, there’s a common misconception that children from families of divorce and separation are often troubled. Dr Siya emphasises otherwise. “Sometimes children actually do better after a divorce, especially if there was domestic violence or abuse in the family. In most cases, children are more resilient than people tend to think they are… Therefore the idea that it’s better to stay in an abusive relationship/marriage for the “sake” of the children is definitely a myth and is quite an unhealthy way of thinking”, says Dr Siya.
Once we get rid of the myths and misconceptions like the ones above, separated couples can move forward to create healthier spaces for their children and themselves. The breakup of a family doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing and can instead result in beneficial and honest revelations that contribute to a family’s progress. It’s a matter of gaining good perspective, acknowledging that there are difficulties while also seeing the glass as half full.