Caught in crossfire

These three case studies show how children may act out in divorce situations.

Case 1: Shah's father, who was separated from her mother, would get the six-year-old to pass messages to his wife, to persuade her not to divorce him. The girl felt she was to blame for her parents splitting up and threw tantrums.

After her father accepted that the marriage would not work out, he stopped getting Shah to pass messages and the tantrums stopped.

Case 2: When Ryan's parents got divorced, his mother kept telling him his father was a bad husband. Torn between his parents, the 12-year-old felt guilty about taking sides. He started behaving badly in school and failed his exams.

A counsellor helped him realise he had the right to love both his parents. His parents were shown the importance of co-parenting rather than running each other down.

Case 3: After Serene's parents were divorced, they continued to argue. Over time, her father drifted out of her life and her mother was too busy to care for her emotional needs.

She started playing truant in school at 13 and hung out with gangs. She also began to engage in sexual activities with men as that helped her feel loved. She was eventually sent to the Singapore Girls' Home.

Linette Lai

•Adapted from Living With Divorce And Family Issues, a book by Dr Parvathy Pathy, Dr Ann-Marie Lo Castro and Foo Cirong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Caught in crossfire'. Print Edition | Subscribe