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Long distance parenting | does it help or hurt a child?

Published:Saturday | December 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM- T.B.
Claudia Frys
Claudia Frys holds a Bachelor of Science in social work and says that had her parents not migrated, she probably would not have entered university.

Quite often, parents are presented with opportunities to travel to foreign countries to make life better for their children. However, the decision is likely to come at an expense, which both the child and parent ultimately pay.

Each case is different. Some children are left behind at the abusive hands of relatives or friends, with little to or no contact made by parents, while others are well taken care of and only the inability to physically touch their parents reminds them of their absence.

Family and Religion caught up with a young woman whose parents migrated at crucial points in her life.

She was lucky to have had good people around her and parents who never neglected her, but the journey was never smooth sailing.

"My mother migrated when I was in grade two, so I was around seven or eight years old, and my father left after I completed high school. By then, I was around 17 or 18 years old. But several things that I saw happening to me - decisions that I made - I think I probably wouldn't have done them if she (mother) was around," said Claudia Frys.


She added: " I was always comfortable with my father. I spoke to him about anything, any feeling, any issues I had growing up as a girl. My father still knew how to manage us both - my brother and I. He honestly played an exceptional role while my mother was away, though he never fully explained what would happen to my body at puberty - my aunt did that - but he made sure to get all the items I needed."

The time soon came for Frys' father to migrate and her only way of reaching them was via the telephone. This, she says, was not always easy.

"Academically, I knew what I wanted and, over the phone, my mother tried her best. She would instill some things in me, so I knew the importance of things like education. But the emotional aspects were a bit lacking. There was a little void."

Frys believes, however, that if a parent remains true to his or her duties, then making such a decision can only help the child.


"It was a good sacrifice and I would never blame her for the decision she made. My mother always explained to me why they had to go, and now, looking back, if they didn't, I probably wouldn't have been able to go to university. If I was in the position to make the decision, I would go because I would want better for my children."

Some parents who migrate have been known to mould their children into a 'barrel babies' as a means of making up for their absence, but Frys acknowledges this as the worst mistake one could make.

"I certainly wasn't a barrel baby and when I made requests of wants - and not needs - and my mother thought they were unnecessary, she told me I couldn't have it. It was as if she were here. I had to understand the value of a lot of things. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't take care of your children and send barrels when you can, but don't do it because you are seeking to make up for leaving them or how little you try contacting them and playing the role of mommy or daddy. That's not proper parenting."

She ended by advising parents to maintain their roles at all cost and be mindful of the ripple effect of bad parenting.

"You have to mend the relationship that may possibly break after you leave. Speak to your child and explain to them why you made such a decision. Remember they may one day be parents, and based on your relationship with them now, it may affect how they treat their own."