Your Baby & Toddler - - Talking Point -

that child. These in­ter­ests are al­ways con­sid­ered when a court de­cides on any­thing re­lat­ing to a child and they are de­ter­mined on a case by case ba­sis, but the courts take into ac­count fac­tors such as:

The child’s age, ma­tu­rity, stage of de­vel­op­ment, gen­der and back­ground.

The child’s phys­i­cal and emo­tional se­cu­rity.

Any history of in­volv­ing the child.

The need for a child to main­tain a con­nec­tion with his/her fam­ily, cul­tures and tra­di­tions.

The likely ef­fect on a child that any pro­posed sep­a­ra­tion from a par­ent, care­giver, sib­ling or any other per­son with whom the child has been liv­ing will have on him/her.

Any dis­abil­ity that the child may have.

Any chronic ill­ness from which the child may suf­fer.

Lastly, which de­ci­sion would min­imise fu­ture le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

The courts will also con­sider the fol­low­ing fac­tors: the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the grand­par­ent and the child, the de­gree of com­mit­ment the grand­par­ent has shown to the child, and the ex­tent to which the grand­par­ent has con­trib­uted to­wards ex­penses in con­nec­tion with the birth and main­te­nance of the child.

The courts are very re­luc­tant to in­ter­fere with parental au­thor­ity, but un­less it can be proved that it would be harm­ful to do so, it has gen­er­ally been ac­cepted that it is in a child’s best in­ter­ests to have con­tact with her grand­par­ents. The mes­sage the courts are send­ing out is that any­one other than a child’s par­ents who wish to play a piv­otal role in her life must rep­re­sent a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence for them. In ad­di­tion, they must not cre­ate con­flict and dis­sen­sion in their en­vi­ron­ment and above all, they must re­spect the rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the child’s par­ents.


If a child’s par­ents are dead or per­ma­nently ab­sent from a child’s life, or have left them en­tirely in a grand­par­ent’s care, they need to ap­ply for more ex­ten­sive rights to that child. They could also be en­ti­tled to gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance in the form of a foster care grant.

In this in­stance, ap­ply­ing for care and con­tact to the child prob­a­bly won’t be enough, and so the grand­par­ents would have to ap­ply for le­gal guardian­ship of the child. Guardian­ship may only be ap­plied for in the High Court. The rea­son that a guardian­ship or­der may be re­quired is that ac­cord­ing to the Chil­dren’s Act, only a guardian can do cer­tain things on be­half of a child, in­clud­ing ad­min­is­ter­ing her prop­erty, rep­re­sent­ing her in ad­min­is­tra­tive, con­trac­tual or le­gal mat­ters and con­sent­ing to her mar­riage, de­par­ture or re­moval from South Africa, ap­pli­ca­tion for a pass­port and the sale or en­cum­brance of any im­move­able prop­erty be­long­ing to her. As a re­sult, a grand­par­ent who does not have a guardian­ship or­der could be pow­er­less to as­sist the child with any mat­ters where a guardian’s con­sent or as­sis­tance is re­quired. The child may then not be able to travel out of the coun­try and could also be pre­cluded from sign­ing up for cer­tain schools, ex­cur­sions or ac­tiv­i­ties that re­quire per­mis­sion from a


Child-rear­ing in South Africa has long been char­ac­terised by the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple care­givers in the lives of our chil­dren. With the im­por­tance that the ex­tended fam­ily plays in our cul­ture, it is not sur­pris­ing that be­sides a child’s bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, her grand­par­ents are the sin­gle most im­por­tant cat­e­gory of care­givers to as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of car­ing for and rais­ing chil­dren in South Africa. De­spite pro­pos­als to give grand­par­ents a spe­cial sta­tus in our law, no such pro­vi­sions have been en­acted. The Chil­dren’s Act does seem to af­ford grand­par­ents suf­fi­cient scope to pro­tect their re­la­tion­ships with their grand­chil­dren though. Rais­ing a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion can bring many re­wards to a grand­par­ent, in­clud­ing the ful­fil­ment of giv­ing their grand­chil­dren a sense of se­cu­rity, de­vel­op­ing a deeper re­la­tion­ship with them, and keep­ing the fam­ily to­gether – but it also comes with many chal­lenges. No mat­ter how much a grand­par­ent loves their grand­chil­dren, tak­ing them into their home re­quires ma­jor ad­just­ments for all and it is pos­si­ble that there could be var­i­ous le­gal, and other, pit­falls along the way.

If you find your­self in any of the sit­u­a­tions de­scribed above, try to get clued up on the le­gal side of things as much as you can. You’ll want to have as much scope as pos­si­ble to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing deep and mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships with your grand­chil­dren as they grow and rely on you. YB

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Jea­nine La­musse rec­om­mends these books as a great guide for par­ents with strong-willed chil­dren: How To Talk So Kids Will Lis­ten & Lis­ten So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Ma­zlish, R232, avail­able from www.ex­clu­ Reg­is­tered so­cial worker and lo­cal au­thor Anne Ca­wood has writ­ten a se­ries of par­ent­ing guides, no­tably Chil­dren Need Bound­aries, R134, avail­able from www.ex­clu­ or or­der her ti­tles di­rectly at www.bound­

child is that more of­ten than not, the mo­ment you im­pose that you are the par­ent and you know bet­ter, they fight back more,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Jea­nine La­musse. “Try to set up the dy­namic of a part­ner­ship, where all par­ties feel like they are be­ing re­spected as in­di­vid­u­als. You need to hear your child out to gauge where she is com­ing from, and al­ways ask for her opin­ion. Use tools like mu­tual prob­lem-solv­ing. An ex­am­ple might be to say, ‘I’ve no­ticed that you strug­gle with this, and I’m con­cerned about it be­cause of that. I’m won­der­ing what your thoughts are about it? What do you think we can do about it?’ By pass­ing the con­ver­sa­tion back to your child, you of­fer her the chance to ex­press her­self.”

It’s also im­por­tant to ex­plain the thought pro­cesses be­hind your de­ci­sions to your strong-willed child. It may feel like this would be a waste of time, es­pe­cially with a small child, but the ex­act op­po­site is ac­tu­ally true. “So of­ten, when chil­dren are ask­ing why, par­ents think that the child is be­ing op­po­si­tional or de­fi­ant, but they are not. They gen­uinely need to know why,” ex­plains Ja­nine. “Par­ents of­ten say, ‘No, I’m the par­ent, I’m the au­thor­ity and that’s the way it is,’ and this is just not use­ful at all to a strong-willed child, be­cause it’s very im­por­tant that she un­der­stands your thought process.”


It can feel ex­haust­ing to par­ent a strong-willed child, and it’s tempt­ing to oc­ca­sion­ally take short­cuts or be in­con­sis­tent about dis­ci­pline, but it’s im­por­tant that you not de­vi­ate from the bound­aries you have laid down. “This is so, so im­por­tant. If you say that this is the con­se­quence for this type of be­hav­iour, you need to stick to that and you need to see it through,” says Ja­nine. “You have to give con­trol back, but you also have to have a con­se­quence. You can have a strong will and you can choose the path you want to fol­low, but re­mem­ber that there is a con­se­quence to each path – that is what they need to learn,” adds Dr von Cz­iffra-bergs. There has to be con­sis­tency in the con­se­quences that re­late to the bound­aries you cre­ate.

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