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Lessons for Parents

The lessons for parents in this situation are similar to those going through separation and divorce without the added complication of different countries of residence, i.e. that children need to be protected from conflict and not to have parental burdens and pressures placed on them. Children value having comprehensible and age appropriate explanations of what is happening in their lives. They dislike being made to feel that they have been misled. They want to be listened to and to have a say in decisions that affect their lives.

The abduction event in itself appears not to have been traumatic for most of the children because it was presented as a holiday. However when that was not the reality,

dawning realisation that this was not a holiday and that they were to live with the abducting parent permanently came to feel like betrayal, a deception. This together with anxiety about the left-behind parent had long lasting, adverse consequences for all of the children. Even those children who did not see themselves as having been abducted felt angry and confused by the court battle and the insecurity of their living arrangements. Their trust in one of their parents, and sometimes both, was compromised. For one child in particular her anxiety has been long lasting. This was

absent for intentions. were only

those children Two children three years old

whose abductors had been clear with them about their were similarly unaffected as they were too young. Both at the time of the abduction, younger than those children

who had more understandable

clear memories. The explanation was for

complete denial of contact three children corrosive of

in the absence their ability to

of an trust.

Where contact was denied but happy about it, and stated that accept it as a necessity.

explained to the children concerned they were not they missed the other parent, but they were able to

All of the children valued their relationship with both parents. In interview, all said that they were either enjoying contact with their non-resident parent or, if having no contact, wanted to find a way to make it happen safely. They very definitely want it to be made safe. Several of the children talked about their anxieties that, if contact were unsupervised, the abducting parent might remove them again. One child described an event in which one parent tried to remove his younger sibling from school after proceedings were completed. Even those children who did not consider themselves to have been abducted said that they did not want it to happen again and yearned for an end to the ongoing proceedings. Two children from different families were aware of continuing proceedings which caused them anxiety and which they wanted to end. One child said, “The court case was not necessary. Dad could have just accepted it in the first place, that I wanted to live here”. He went on to say, “It will be with me forever. It will never go away”. By way of contrast, one young person pointed out that, for him, it was probably not much different than for many children who simply emigrate with their parents. The children were all clear that they resented being caught up in the adult conflict and did not want either to hear negative things about either parent or to feel that they had to defend the other parent. Some of them talked about their concerns for the parent who they perceived as suffering the most.

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