Helping kids go through parents' divorce

We affirm intentional efforts to consider the interests of the child by engaging multiple stakeholders from the courts, as well as counsellors, to lend objective wisdom to divorcing couples on childcare and parenting issues ("Children get a voice in cases of divorce"; last Friday).

When divorce is inevitable, hurting parents need to prioritise self-care. It seems counter-intuitive but, like the life-jacket principle, we need to first equip ourselves before we can tend to our children.

We must let children be children. It may be tempting to turn to our children for comfort and strength, but we will end up forcing adult burdens upon them. We should instead have friends we can count on and have boundaries in place.

Children will take time to heal. But parents can walk alongside them by listening to their fears and courageously tackling their tough and often heartrending questions. Be honest about our own shortcomings and process their feelings.

No matter how good we get at mediating acrimony, divorce must never be a panacea for marital conflict.

Remarriage by divorced individuals is as high as 23 per cent of all civil marriages ("More Muslim marriages ending before five years"; April 20).

Sadly, studies show that remarriages encounter higher divorce rates than first marriages. In short, relationship problems can perpetuate in future marriages.

But this pattern does not have to be repeated, even to our children.

If parents continue to work through co-parenting and relational issues post-divorce, and attend specialised premarital counselling when considering remarriage, we can break the cycle of divorce in the family and restore a child's belief in marriage.

Better yet, if we were to really consider children's interests, couples can consider attending marriage counselling even before commencing divorce applications.

A forum last year revealed that an estimated 40 per cent of couples who underwent mandatory marriage counselling under the Syariah Court did not proceed to divorce each other.

Children should not suffer the mistakes of adults.

Since divorce hurts children, let us keep doing what we can to keep marriages intact.

Joanna Koh-Hoe (Mrs)
Chief Executive
Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2015, with the headline 'Helping kids go through parents' divorce'. Print Edition | Subscribe