Dr Masimba Mavaza
Many Zimbabweans have left the country for purported greener pastures.
But the greener pastures turn tinder dry on family relationships, volatile and ready to burn.
Most parents have been away from their children for years. Only sending them money, a lot of it. But money does not build relations. Separation and divorce within any family is a challenging. They can create hatred, anger and anxiety for every family member involved.
No matter the distance, vast or small, long-distance parent-child relationships can break down even the most resilient of parents with a serious case of heartsickness. And while adults may be better equipped to handle some of the emotional trials of long-distance parenting, most children will not have the ability to easily adapt and cope with being separated from one of their parents for great lengths of time.
Many sociologists believe that the key to successful and healthy long-distance parent-child relationships is preparation. How wrong are they? It requires your presence.
We must always remember that when we are apart, it is not the end, but the beginning. There is enough hope to know we’ll meet again but fate has a different agenda.
Masimba Mavaza Jnr wrote in his poem
“I’ll be waiting by the gate standing just inside Until I know you’ve made it home all right Until I know you’ve made it home all right.”
For some families, the reality is that at least one parent is often forced to seek greener pastures overseas to ensure that their needs can be adequately met.
But the emotional needs were not part of the plan. It is even harder when both parents are away and a relative or trusted friend is left with the responsibility to stand in the gap. Some children, without the firm hands of their parents, tend to break out or lose focus.
Pastor Gabriel Nyoni said “that there is an urgent need for a better understanding of the impacts of family separation on the health and well-being of children left behind”.
An immigration lawyer in the UK, Mr Welcome Bhebhe, shared that “although migration might provide opportunities for parents to earn significantly higher incomes to the benefit of all family members, it is also accompanied by long-term family separations, which might have direct or indirect effect on children’s development”.
Lives of children are being destroyed by need of a better life. Dr Herbert Kawadza when asked to comment on the issue said; “Children need safe, predictable and stress-free environments and a strong, caring and reliable primary caregiver in order to reach physical, cognitive, social, and emotional maturation.”
One Zimbabwean lady was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the UK after her daughter who had just come to the UK reported her to the police that she was beating her.
She was hauled before an all-white jury.
Narrating her story from the prison cell she said; “My daughter was in Zimbabwe for 15 years. In all these years I could not bring her to the UK because I had no papers.
“So when I finally got my visa I had to work to raise funds for the visa and accommodation. The requirements to bring your child here requires that you have a decent accommodation and enough monies in your account. When I achieved all this, I then applied for my daughter to come.
“She was 16 when she arrived in the UK. She was so rude to me she would blame me for abandoning her in Zimbabwe. I would cry everyday. I cried daily for her to come to the UK and I cried daily after she arrived in the UK.”
“On this day I came from work and I found my daughter in the house with a lot of boys. They were doing drugs. I was so angry. When I asked her what she was doing, she said: ‘I have made it alone for the past 16 years. Do not lecture me on my life.’ I was so angry and I slapped her twice. The other boy called the police who arrived within minutes. I explained to them what I found in the house. They still arrested me. Four days later I was shocked when the police came showing me pictures of my daughter’s bruised arms and back. She claims I subjected her to torture. I was convicted based on these pictures.
“They portrayed me as a monster a vampire. It was only when I was in prison that one of her friends came to visit me. She told me that my daughter caused those marks on herself so that the police could believe her.’’
Children who are left in Zimbabwe are usually spoiled with a lot of money. They actually start doing drugs. They have all what they want. Some parents think that by showering them with money, it is a sign of love. Children need a physical presence more than money.
Some parents even buy their children cars and fuels. Once these kids are in the UK, they don’t get the pampering they were used to. They then will experiment with drugs.
Some children are very bitter with their parents whom they blame them for having abandoned them. So when they get into the UK, they bring serious problems.
Makombe Makombe of Leeds England said; “Children are encouraged to come up and say any form of abuse. They are given presents and incentives like money, games and new clothes by the charitable organisations which deal with victims.
“Motivated by money, the children can dramatise anything and the victims becomes the parents.
“Many Zimbabwean parents in the UK mistake spoiling children with love. Children with parents in the UK are spoilt brats. They live a life of an employed person. Some of them get more money than their teachers,” said Robert Shanduka of Huddersfield.
A complete family is a community consisting of a mother, a father and children with mutual love, respect, support/solidarity and the sense of belonging to each other. Such a family is the fundamental factor in the emotional, social and moral development of the child. In sum, a complete family is a natural environment where the child is socialized in the broadest sense. So once this community is separated from each, other there will be consequences”.
We should point out that migration creates emotional displacement for migrants and their children and it can have a detrimental impact on their children’s health, education, emotional stability and behaviour.
Although some children cope well with the migration of their parents, others see it as a form of abandonment or rejection, adopting several deviant behavioural patterns.
A child having an extramarital mother will never have had a complete family. Such being the case, the ability of the child to overcome the problems encountered as s/he grows up is dependent on the understanding/empathy the close environment around her/him will show towards her/his situation.
Different from the traditional families, parents in modern families focus all their financial and emotional sources along with all their attention and energy on raising children.
For a woman, having a child becomes no more a conventionally inevitable role after marriage; instead, it becomes a period of personal decision and responsibility on the part of her.
A woman does not have a child just because she is married, and that having a child is not a marriage routine, but a decision independently made by the woman.
Hence, it is also put forward that parenthood has lost its traditional relationship/association with marriage.
In the wake of such changes, the emotional value of the child, different from that of the traditional families, has increased even more. Children do better when they have healthy relationships with both of their parents.
Maintaining those bonds may be more difficult in long distance relationships, but they are no less important. Both co-parents must realise and internalise this fact, and make it a key component of all of their co-parenting decisions.
With less room for error due to the need to plan well in advance, long-distance parent-child relationships require co-parents to work together to foster strong relationships, regardless of any interpersonal conflict.
Encourage your children to make notes about the things they want to share with their other parent during their next call or video chat.
Keep a running list on the fridge, family bulletin board, or on your phone. Encouraging your children to think of their other parent in this manner reinforces their connection with them.
It can show your child that even though their other parent isn’t there to experience these daily events in the moment, they are no less important to them for that fact.
Many parents are away from their children because they love their children. Out of sight is not necessarily out of mind. Many things parents do is done for their children.