On Universal Children’s Day, 20th November the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) publishes a new set of findings on differences in legal minimum ages to help the EU and its Member States eliminate inconsistencies, protection gaps and seemingly arbitrary restrictions resulting from different age thresholds. To highlight these differences the Agency mapped the national legal age requirements in various areas across the EU.
Frequently, and today in particular, as professionals who daily work with traumatized children, we have been invited to comment on individual cases that are in the interest of the public through the media. Since the code of ethics of our profession clearly makes it impossible to talk about individual cases because it can further traumatize, marked and otherwise harm the child, even on this occasion, despite the increased media interest we will not make a comment about specific case. When it comes to high conflict divorces and enforcement of court decisions on custody, we would like to draw public attention to two key elements.
First of all, we would like to emphasize that the situation of conflict disputes, the alienation syndrome of children, and then the occasional enforceable procedures resulting therefrom in a psychological sense – from the client’s point of view and the professional – from the position of many involved experts are extremely complex.
These are situations that are extremely stressful for the whole family, especially for children, and can often reach the level of traumas. The situations in which a decision to enforce a decision is made are always the result of a lack of parents’ capacity to view the position of a child for various reasons and then to act in the child’s best interest. For this very reason, they inevitably result in a single party dissatisfied with the decision.
In this context, in most cases the situation is enforcement, no matter if it is determined after thorough inspection and analysis of numerous experts in the field of child protection (psychologists, social workers, special representatives, judges, doctors …) becomes traumatic for a child who is constantly there in the position of war, war between those who should be the main source of support and sense of security. Such a context of growing inevitably leaves long-term consequences to the mental health of children.
As a society that reads, looks and listens to these events in the media, we are often disgusted, shocked, angry, disappointed. In other words, our reactions are emotional, and so are the actions that members of society take, including in a variety of ways, primarily, often and exclusively based on information from the media.
We often talk about how children are the responsibility of all of us and we absolutely agree with that fact.
We want to appeal, primarily to the media, and then to other members of our society, to think about the way we decide to practice that responsibility. We believe that media involvement in any problem and so can this be useful if it is accessed professionally, ethically, considerably, with the intent of education, understanding, and compassion without violating the child’s right to privacy.
Given that you are wondering what we have to comment as experts we want to say this:
We call for an end to media discussion of individual cases, “fueling the fire”, polarizing situations, indiscriminate choice of interlocutor, giving the public unverified information, monitoring of events that places the child in the center.
Instead, we call on an expert discussion on the issue of conflict disputes and the alienated syndrome. We urge the media to take advantage of their great power, and therefore the inevitable responsibility they have, to educate the public, and public policy as well as the work of the institutions further focus on the best interests of children.
Because we as human beings have the right to emotions and emotional responses, but as mental health professionals, lawyers and judges, social workers, but also journalists and editors, we have the responsibility to react according to the knowledge and ethical code of each of our profession. the purpose of protecting children who is so easy and unfortunately often only declaratively called ours.