‘Seek the help you need’

Afraid that her son would ruin his chances in life, Carmen lost her temper. Her children were put under protective custody. She is now working hard to get them back.

“I know some will criticise my story, but I want to share it to help other parents.
I remember the day I hit my son very well. I wish I could turn back time and change that day. My son is intelligent and used to get good grades. However, since attending high school, he started getting laid back, not listening, and ignoring his schoolwork. I tried everything to help him, but nothing was working.

It was a Thursday, and it started as a happy morning. I got up early, cooked for the kids, dropped them at school and went to work. Then I got two phone calls – both from teachers at my son’s school. One shared that he had not been handing in his assignments. The other said that my son had not attended school for the last week. My phone fell out of my hand, and my heart sank. I thought: my son has ruined his life.


I picked my son up from school and confronted him about his assignments and missing school. His explanations did not fully add up. We argued, and I discovered several other things that upset me further. I needed answers and did not understand why he was behaving this way. Panic set in; I had a stick in my hand and just started to hit him… he ran into his room, and I hit him again and again. Eventually, he ran to the neighbour’s home, and they brought him to the police station.

When I was arrested and my kids were put under protective custody, I felt like my life was over. I couldn’t eat during the days I was locked up; I was so worried about where my kids were sleeping and if they were ok. I thought to myself: I tried to build a home with so much love, and that day I crossed a line that changed everything. I thought about suicide many times. But I am the only person my kids have.

Strict upbringing

Looking back on that day, I know I should have sought help sooner. Those around me expressed that I was such a good parent, and I didn’t want to show that I was slowly breaking down. I felt like I had no one to talk to and felt embarrassed to admit I needed help. I am a lot more embarrassed now about my actions and how I hurt my son.

“I don’t drink, go out, or socialise much; my kids are my world”

Therapy has helped me. I grew up with a lot of pressure and fear of failure. I had a very strict mother – bad grades were never an option, and besides school or church, we were not allowed to do much else. Other things happened to me that proved to me that the world is a dangerous place. I still have a lot of that fear inside of me. I don’t drink, go out, or socialise much; my kids are my world.

New boundaries and realistic expectations

I was undocumented when I was younger and know how it feels not to be able to have opportunities. I think my fear took over the day that I beat my son. I just was so scared that he was throwing his life away. Thinking that if I hit him, he would think twice about the choices he was making. I know now that it doesn’t work like that.

“Through therapy and guidance, I am trying to set new boundaries and have more realistic expectations of my children”

Through therapy and guidance, I am trying to set new boundaries and have more realistic expectations of my children. The hardest moment during these few months was seeing my children for the first time since the incident. I relived the entire situation when I saw them. It’s the same with our house; I don’t want to be there anymore because it reminds me of that day. My kids feel the same.

Seek help

I understand that the government must act in situations where children are hurt. I hope, however, that people working on these cases, such as the police, try to listen better and not pass judgment immediately. Taking a child away from his mother is like taking away their life.

For parents, my advice would be don’t keep your feelings in. Sooner or later those feelings are going to boil over, and you will lose everything. Seek the help you need.”

The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.