Rose Nabankema, 36, was raised by a single mother. Although she has fond memories of her father when she was growing up, he abandoned the family when she was in Primary Six and married another woman.
Unlike men who continue to pay school fees and cater for their children’s welfare even after a separation or divorce, Nabankema’s father never looked back.
“My mother struggled to raise the two of us. Attempts to connect with my father, asking him to return home and requests for fees and other basic needs constantly fell on deaf ears. He did not care if we ate or starved,” she recalls.
Amidst all challenges, Nabankema’s mother, a primary school teacher, educated her two children until they completed university. A year after graduation, she started working. She later got married and has been blessed with two children.
She, however, says she has never forgiven her father for abandoning her at a very young age. “I have never looked for him. Memories of what my mother went through to put food on the table are still fresh. If he is happy without us, we are also happy without him,” she laments.
Although one would have imagined that growing up in an unstable family made Nabankema hate men and marriage, she believes the best gift she can give her children is a strong foundation of marriage and family values.
“I don’t want my children to go through my childhood experience. I want them to grow up in a proper family set-up, with both mother and father,” she says.
Do parents ever think about the effects their decisions have on their children’s future relationships? Do broken marriages have an effect on children’s beliefs on marriage? Do children from broken families build strong marriages or they will pack their bags at the smell of the slightest marital issue?
More and more people are choosing to become single parents lately. Statistics show a growing trend of single mothers, which was not the case a decade ago.
According to research findings on www.focusonthefamily.com, children of divorced or separated parents suffer academically, experience high levels of behavioural challenges.
The study also shows that children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to suffer from symptoms of psychological distress and emotional trauma.
What is however, true is the fact that divorce paints a certain picture about how children view the world and relationships for the rest of their lives.
According to Stella Kakaire, the founder of Family Altar Ministries, divorce has become a growing reality today. She says although no couple gets married thinking that their union won’t be permanent, life is full of surprises.
She says the most alarming consequence of divorce is the long term effect it has on children. “Until recently, interpreters of social sciences revealed that living in a single parent home is better for children than living in a hostile and tense environment,” she says.
Kakaire adds: “Children who do not live with their biological parents are likely to have life issues, crisis after crisis in their lifetime. Older children do not feel a part of the new family. They perceive the new marriage to be good for their parents not for them,” says Kakaire.”
She says the long term impact of parental divorce extends even into young adulthood of children, adding that sons of divorced parents are less likely to ever marry for fear of being loved, abandoned and betrayed.
“Many young adult daughters from divorced or broken marriages go through a series of failed relationships.
Kakaire says two thirds of daughters of divorced parents fear betrayal and are unable to make life commitments. She reveals that there is high likelihood for such daughters to experience divorce.
She, however, emphasises that children from divorced families need emotional support before, during and long after the divorce or separation, which requires therapy, counselling and the grace of God.
Evelyn C Kharono Lufafa, a counseling psychologist believes a functional family provides a safe space for emotional growth.
“Growing up in a dysfunctional family has negative effects on children. It exposes them to mistrust, anxiety and most of them turn out to be insecure adults,” she says.
Lufafa says children from such toxic families view love as a chaotic, painful and dramatic experience due to childhood examples they witnessed.
“When it comes to marriage, a child who was raised by a single parent or divorced parent may have challenges maintaining a functional family because they were not exposed to a proper family set up in the first place,” she says.
She, however, says if children are supported by society, church and school, they can become resilient and build strong marriages. But how can one overcome the effects of a toxic family?
Lufafa says seeking professional counseling is good place to start .It helps one to deal with their past in a healthy way. She also adds that every adult has a choice to overcome any circumstances and work towards creating a healthier emotional life.
Premarital counseling is also an avenue where some of these issues are discussed. Lufafa advises couples to attend marriage counseling seminars to learn and unlearn.
“Join a support group of people who have a similar background and values. Learn to build trust with your closest friends and your husband,” she advises.