Thye Hua Kwan centre launched to support divorcing couples and their children

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on a tour of the officially launched family support centre.
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on a tour of the officially launched family support centre.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Divorcing parents and their children will be able to get more support, with the official opening of the Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Centre for Family Harmony @ Commonwealth.

Set up by the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities, the centre also helps divorcing couples to explore what is best for their children during and after they separate.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin attended the opening of the centre.

The new centre is one of four Divorce Support Specialist Agencies appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

The other three centres are Care Corner Centre for Co-Parenting in Eunos Crescent, Help Family Service Centre in Ang Mo Kio and PPIS As-Salaam Family Support Centre in Ubi Avenue.

The new centre has been operational since Jan 2, 2015, but was at a temporary venue in Circuit Road. It moved to its current location in Commonwealth in 2016.

The centre has five rooms and a pantry that allow children from different age groups to interact with their parents in a conducive environment. There is also a play therapy room where trained counsellors engage children and help them express their emotions and views.

To date, the centre has served 2,500 clients. About three in four are court-mandated and the rest are voluntary.

According to the Women's Charter in Singapore, the number of divorces has increased over the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2010, the total number of civil divorces more than doubled from 2,178 to 5,433.

And last year, there were 7,614 divorces and annulments, a 1.2 per cent increase from the year before, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics.

Said executive director of THK Centre for Family Harmony @ Commonwealth, Mr George Yeo: "It is often a defining moment for children when their parents undergo divorce.

"Many of the parents undergoing separation are so stressed out that they are unable to focus on the emotional needs of their children. Hence, we aim to make this place a safe environment for children and parents to get the help they need."

He added: "By helping our parents adopt a child-focused approach in divorce, some of our parents have managed to put aside their differences and disagreements to do what was best for their children."

To help divorcing parties cope, the centre offers a variety of counselling programmes before, during and after a divorce.

For instance, the centre has separate programmes for mothers and fathers.

It also has a programme called Angry Birds that helps children struggling with behavioural difficulties, by teaching them anger and conflict management techniques.

The centre plans to do outreach in schools and work with other voluntary welfare organisations to refer divorced parents to its counselling and support programmes. It also hopes to create more support groups for children.