War at home damages kids
MBALI Nkobese, 9, and her sister Khosi Nkobese, 5, are bright, loving little girls - but there is fear in their eyes.
"Our parents fight a lot and we fear they might split up," the girls says. "They fight when we're in the house. They think we don't know what's going on, but we do."
Many children are exposed to violence at home and this has a profound impact on their lives. Mbali and Khosi are not alone.
A Michigan University study of low-income pre-schoolers finds that children who have been exposed to family violence suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bed-wetting or nightmares, and are at greater risk than their peers of having allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and flu.
A Rivonia-based child psychologist, Dr Cristine Scolari, says: "Children need to be assisted in various ways. First, it is important that the relevant authorities are notified.
"Get assistance from a professional organisation that deals with domestic violence and abuse as soon as possible," she says.
"On a practical level a child who has witnessed abuse or has been abused heals better when they have a trusted adult who listens to them and helps them as opposed to a child who has no 'safe' person to talk to."
Scolari says most parents tend to ignore signs and blame it on the child being naughty.
Tumelo Tau, father of a 10-year-old, says: "I never knew fighting in front of my son was wrong. I thought he was just being stubborn because when I tell him not to hit other kids in school, he does it anyway."
- Not their real names