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Children are no marital weapons!


Children. Photo Shutterstock

This was an experience that one of my readers shared with me sometime back. And I daresay the message hit home…real good. I mean, it’s a common setting in troubled marriages to see spouses using the children as weapons; weapons to get at each other, weapons of negotiation, weapons of manipulation…even when the other clearly wants out.

But as children grow older, they tend to replicate relationships similar to what their parents modeled. Weapons of extortion, weapons of bitter dispositions.

Read him first…
“I belong to an organization that offers counseling services to juvenile offenders here in the UK.
And I must say that my experience with a lot of them has left my emotions distraught, especially as it regards marriages and the constant urge to use children as weapons.


“Those who follow the news here must be alarmed by the spate of violence amongst teenagers in the African community. Some of the offenders and their victims are Nigerians. I met a Nigerian teenage boy at a Juvenile Prison during our rounds and I cried, friends. He didn’t have to be there…if only he found the emotional security he sought at home.

“According to him, his parents were no longer together but what scarred his emotions so bad was his mum constantly saying, “your daddy doesn’t want you around him,’’ to him and his siblings. He said that she often said that to them anytime they (the parents) fought. And that he has lost count of how many times she had said “he doesn’t want you guys near him’’ to them.

“The experience made all three siblings rather isolated from both parents and from each other. Everyone got closer to “friends.” In his own case, he got closer to the “older boys” on his street for protection.

“The result of that closeness from the streets is why he is in prison today and will most likely remain there for over two decades, because a life was brutally snuffed out of another teenager during a fight. And it involved his “street family” and another gang (in which the deceased belonged to).

“When I compare notes with colleagues, their observations are not very different. A lot of disenchanted young people are seeking acceptance from the streets. So, all the disdain or outright abandon of the African Value system that holds “family” supreme is also taking a huge toll on these children.

“But my message of today is for ADULTS who think it’s OK to use children as weapons when marriage is troubled. Women are most guilty of this. People, this is VERY wrong and myopic. You may succeed in hurting the other parent by turning the children against him, but you will also have succeeded in damaging those children in ways…unimaginable!

“A parent (regardless of his/her faults) is EVERYTHING to a child. And when you go certain ‘ugly’ towards whom a child holds dear…you cause certain damage in the psyche of that child. Some vices that manifest as children grow often have their roots in the kind of damage that I am talking about. If you love that child…respect their feeling about the other parent! Keep the children out of your issues. Protect their emotions.

“Do not disillusion a young mind from whatever “pedestal” that he/she has placed a parent on. Their emotions fare better when they think GOOD of mummy and daddy. They will figure out WHO IS WHO as they grow. But, until then…protect their fragile emotions by leaving (intact!) their fondness of the other parent.

“Fight your fights, go your separate ways if the centre can no longer hold. But on the emotional wellbeing of the children…sheath your swords. And find a common ground. Your resentments of each other shouldn’t be stronger than the desire to have well-adjusted children in your hands.


“The latest (fatal stab) incident that shook the Nigerian community here involved two teenage boys from the same ethnic group in Nigeria. Frankly, parents in the Diasporas are not doing enough to teach these children about their roots. That is why young people will continue to see themselves as rivals and not kindred, out there.’’

“When the innocence of a child is tainted by a parent’s pettiness…he/she grows up an awkward adult-’’ Chukwuneta Oby.
In the words of a children’s psychologist…

“It’s narcissistic parents that often buffer the pain of a failed marriage by trying to destroy their ex’s relationship with the children. A narcissistic parent won’t hesitate to use children as weapons in the battle against their ex as a way to amp up an already high conflict divorce. They become terrified that the children might love the other parent more. Divorce is difficult enough for everyone without embroiling the kids in the angry politics of the adults.’’

In this article:
Chukwuneta Oby
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