In providing counselling and mediation for couples and families, we have seen that children tend to become collateral damage and are often used by divorcing parents to "get back" at each other ("Getting to the heart of divorce"; published last Sunday).
It is commendable that the new amendment to the Women's Charter focuses on the implications of divorce on children and facilitates effective co-parenting.
However, we must also place emphasis on allowing the divorcing couple to address their own individual emotions, which more often than not are considered secondary in the divorce process.
It is often easy to forget that the divorcing couple are human as well, and need to have their hurts, needs and emotions addressed.
The current "child-focused" model of pre-divorce counselling does not address the reasons for the failure of the marriage and how the divorcing couple feel about this failure. Thus, focusing on the children can result in very perfunctory agreements to custody, care and control issues.
The end of a marriage requires proper closure, as people who are hurting inadvertently end up hurting others (including the children). Marriage closure therapy can give divorcing couples a space to address the emotional aspects of divorce. Marriage closure therapy is a therapeutic model of bringing closure to an intimate relationship that has been of significance to both parties in the past.
This therapeutic intervention can help couples in their personal transition pre- and post-divorce, where both spouses still bear great resentment towards each other.
It helps facilitate feelings of grief and anger about losing the dream of living happily ever after. Through this process, each party needs to understand his or her contribution to the dissolution of the marriage, and take responsibility for the decision.
Helping divorcing couples with marriage closure sets the stage for effective co-parenting.
It is only when the divorcing couple are able to work through their hurt that they can then turn to more cooperative divorce options such as mediation.
By coming to some form of acceptance and perhaps even forgiveness of each other's contribution to the current situation, they can then turn their attention to establishing clear boundaries in their new roles and establishing co-parenting goals that they can work towards for the benefit of their children.
Lai Mun Loon
Manager, Mediation Services
Eagles Mediation & Counselling Centre