The failing family unit

May 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – When parents break up, perhaps by a legal divorce, that does not necessarily end all the problems that their discord can bring on their children.

In fact, children now face a tough challenge of deciding whether to maintain some kind of relationship with the parent who has left home.

“On days when Dad had promised to come and pick us up for a visit, Mom would get my sister and me all dressed up. And then we would sit and wait for him. Hour after hour would go by. Even the next morning, we would be waiting for him but still, no Father. Sometimes it seemed that was the story of our life,” said Jane Wanjiku.

Grace Amondi recalls just how hard dealing with divorce could be; “I was so numbed that I just shut down emotionally. So for a while, I had no feelings. It was as if my father had died.”

And Mike remembers; “I began to hate my father, and that feeling lasted a long time. When I’d think about how he left a woman with four kids, giving her the least support he could get away with, well, it made me mad.”

In the chaos and tumult of this period in one’s life, it is all too easy to slam the door shut on your affections for one of your parents and let anger and bitterness fill you.

But nurturing that kind of resentment can poison your outlook on life. Such anger can lead you to burn your bridges, damaging your ties to a parent until they are well-nigh impossible to re-establish.

Experts paint a grim picture of children whose parents are divorced. According to them, the children become economically disadvantaged, depressed and are prone to misbehaviour.
Indeed, parents’ divorce may already seem to be wrecking many lives.

One young man called Dennis recalls; “I was unhappy and depressed after my parents’ divorce. I started having problems in school and failed one year. I became the class clown and got into a lot of fights.”

Some youth even react by turning to alcohol, drugs, or sex or by making tragically impulsive decisions.

In the wake of a divorce, some youth vent their frustration and anger by misbehaving in ways that they would never have dreamed of before.

For some, acting up is a warped way of punishing their parents for getting a divorce.
In some cases, it is a pathetic cry for attention from parents who seem to have suddenly lost interest in their children.

“Mom wasn’t home there was no discipline and no rules, only an empty house. That’s how I got into drugs and sex,” says 15 year old Tina.

Since the family is the basic unit of society, the result of divorce is that rebellious individuals who lack goals emerge and as a result there is a breakdown of society.

Another factor that contributes to the breakdown of family life and in effect the society is drugs and substance abuse.

The abuse of drugs can have a detrimental effect on the people who would have contributed to the development of society.

Charles Mwangi was 15 years old when he was introduced to drugs by his older sister.
Over the next 15 years, he used marijuana, cocaine, and heroin in various combinations. He served time in a host of correctional institutions for petty theft and armed robbery.

His drug use led to his contracting HIV/AIDS. Stunned when told that he was carrying the AIDS virus, he watched helplessly as his tall, powerful, muscular body wasted away to a mere spindle of what he once was.

During an interview with Capital Newsbeat, he related what he had to undergo during the throes of his addiction.

“You destroy a marvellous body. And there are so many things that you miss out on; messing with drugs just to stay high. First, you miss playing with your daughter. You can’t play ball with her, you can’t run with her,” he said.

“I missed seeing my only son grow up from a baby, walking and things like that. I can’t take my wife dancing because I can’t dance anymore. Most sports I can’t play anymore because not only is my body numb but it moves in slow motion like a robot,” he added.

Mr Mwangi summed it up by stating that there was little to gain by dabbling in drugs other than to destroy the family set up.

“I thought I had the game beat. Fifteen years messing with drugs I thought I got away with it. And now I have the AIDS virus. I don’t know when I’m going to die.”

These and other factors play a great role in the breakdown of the family setup. Divorce, Drug Abuse, Sexual promiscuity resulting in HIV/AIDS, and polygamy impact the family in a negative manner.

As a result of this, the society produces individuals who are not productive and cannot develop the nation. This leaves most people, especially the youth, without jobs and thus senior positions continue to be occupied by old people. When this happens, no new ideas are brought forward, and there is the recycling of old thoughts.


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