In this first article focusing on the Best Interest of the Child, we consider Section 7.1.a. of the Children’s Act that states the following.

7. (1) Whenever a provision of this Act requires the best interests of the child standard to be applied, the following factors must be taken into consideration where relevant, namely-
(a) the nature of the personal relationship between-
(i) the child and the parents, or any specific parent; and
(ii) the child and any other care-giver or person relevant in those circumstances;

This section refers to the real relationship between a parent and child. The real relationship between the parent and child starts from the moment that contact is made between a newborn baby and parent. The baby registers the smell, sight, sounds, taste and touch of the parent and this information is captured and stored in the baby’s brain. The repetitive experiences that the baby has with the parent result in the formation of neural pathways in the baby’s brain.

Brain development research tells us that the first two to three years can be described as the critical period of the development of the relationship between parent and child. The relationship between parent and child develops as a result of the unique experiences between the child and the parent.

This is a very profound insight for the parent who finds him/herself in a divorce situation. Very frequently, a parent’s primary concern is how their relationship with their child is affected by the other parent’s actions, comments and thought or lack thereof regarding their relationship with their child. Although we know that external factors can affect the relationship between parent and child, it is unlikely that these external factors will have a profound impact on a well-developed and loving relationship between you and your child.

Your child needs predictable and ongoing experiences for the neural pathways to grow, strengthen and develop. Differently said, your child is building his autobiographical memory of experiences with you. If you are focused on making these experiences loving and worthwhile for your child, the relationship will develop and grow. If your child’s memories of time spend with you consists of for instance you being on your cellphone, talking badly about their other parent, being questioned by you about their other parent or having to attend to your needs, your relationship with your child will not develop and grow positively.