Divorce Counselling [Part 2] – Looking out & Looking in


In part 1 of our article series on divorce counselling, we met 37-year-old Priya (not her real name) and learnt how divorce counselling had helped her to look outwards, and evaluate the consequences of different choices and actions.

Divorce is a life-changing event that is often extremely painful. Even though Priya sought a divorce to end a painful marriage that was filled with hurt, her divorce process was itself no less painful.

Most marriages, even those that end in divorce, are rarely purely negative – they usually include happy and positive experiences. This makes divorce spell the end of these positive aspects of the marriage as well. Priya has to grapple with both the loss of financial support from her husband, and the loss of her dreams for a happy, intact home for her and her children. She and her children may also have developed trauma from their experience of family violence. Having most of her family back in India, Priya also felt very much alone in the lead-up to her divorce.

Many complex emotions can arise within a person going through a divorce; be it guilt for playing a part in “breaking up the family” or anxiety about what the future holds. One may also feel a sense of relief or other positive emotions, and struggle with whether it is “right” to feel this way. Without processing these emotions in a healthy way, individuals may find it challenging to function effectively in their personal and professional lives. Feelings of sadness, helplessness, loneliness may linger and become overwhelming.

This is where divorce counselling helps clients to look inwards, to process the emotional impact of this life-altering event. Through counselling, Priya found emotional support to help her manage her feelings of loneliness during her divorce transition, and better process the sadness, grief, guilt and anxiety that arose from her divorce.

Counselling also helps individuals develop healthier ways of thinking, and steer them away from unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Counselling helps individuals to cope better in their divorce transition, so that they can regain their confidence and move on to a new chapter of their lives post-divorce.

In this 2-part article series, we have explored various benefits of divorce counselling from the perspectives of helping individuals look outwards at their circumstances and look inwards at themselves.

If you need someone to talk to on divorce matters, do connect with us at Healing [email protected] Yue by writing to [email protected]. Our counsellors provide divorce counselling support and other support programmes.

 More information available on our website: https://www.fycs.org/our-work/family/healing-heartsfei-yue/Operational hours: Mondays to Fridays, 9.30am–6.00pm (last call-in at 5.00pm).

Written by Jean Teo

The Positive Perspective


Caleb remembers what it was like during those first few dates. Erica was mesmerizing. He could hardly believe he had the privilege to go on dates with her. He loved the way she smiled, those cute dimples on her cheeks. He loved the way she chortled and cried while watching rom-coms. He loved that she was a bit of a klutz, slightly clumsy and infinitely muddle-headed. That gave him plenty of opportunities to swoop in like a knight in shining armour to save the day. She brought excitement and purpose to his life. She told him that he completed her.

If their wedding can be described as a royal ball, then their BTO would be the castle. The arrival of a princess a year later completed this royal family.

But a happily ever after it was not meant to be.

He couldn’t quite remember how, or when it began. But after the Nth time she had forgotten where she put something or to do something important, Caleb was feeling rather frustrated. This frustration seemed to be growing in other areas of the couple’s life as well. 

Her needs for his help become tiresome and suffocating. Gradually, they spoke less and less, and dimples were replaced by frowns.

What had gone wrong?


The Positive Perspective is the fourth level of Dr John Gottman’s Sound Relationship house. A Positive Perspective basically means that the couple, on a whole, has a positive impression of each other, and their relationship. Try closing your eyes and imagining your partner. If what you saw is a lovely person who you feel deep fondness for, your relationship likely has a Positive Perspective.

It is also a cumulation of the strong foundation that needs to be build well in the first three levels of the Sound Relationship house. If the first three levels (Build Love Maps, Share Fondness and Admiration, Turn Towards instead of Away) have been done well, your relationship will quite naturally have a Positive Perspective.

Key to the Positive Perspective is something Dr Gottman calls the Positive Sentiment Override (PSO). This occurs when you have so much positivity in your relationship that you would always assume the better of your partner/relationship. This leads to a tendency to focus on the positivises, rather than the flaws. Take the example of Caleb and Erica. Erica was swamped with work on one of their date nights. In her busyness, she had forgotten about her date with Caleb and could not attend to her phone at all. Caleb was thus left waiting for her at the restaurant. How he reacted next provides us an indication of whether the couple has PSO.


 

Caleb tried to contact Erica when she didn’t turn up. However, his messages and calls were unanswered. Anxious, he called Erica’s office, and finally reached her. She explained herself to him, and apologised for forgetting to tell him about what happened.

If the couple has PSO, Caleb would probably understand that Erica is busy and quickly forgive her. He’ll probably be worried that Erica is hungry and bring her food. He may even offer to accompany Erica at her workplace, and have an “office date”.

However, with their relationship in choppy waters, they have NSO (Negative Sentiment Override) instead. Caleb was reminded of all thosetimes when Erica had been forgetful and messed up his plans. He grumbled about the time wasted on waiting and scolded her for being so absent-minded. Coupled with Erica’s stress from work, the conversation eventually became a shouting match.

It is important for us to practice the first three levels (covered in the last 3 eDMs) often as it sets the foundation for what Dr Gottman calls a Culture of Appreciation within the relationship. Start with the simple things: be curious about your spouse, find something to appreciate your spouse for every day.

With the foundations built up strong, the next important principle to maintaining The Positive Perspective is to let your partner influence you. Research has found that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages than man who resist it. Do note that this works both ways. Couples where both are engaged in power sharing and discussion would find that they are better in handling conflicts, leading to a more positive relationship.

Keen to find out more about the Sound Relationship House? Keep an eye out for our future articles!

Written by: Lin Feng, Social Worker, Fei Yue Community Services

References

Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press.

Parent-Child Bonding through Fun Activities


Is there really nothing fun to do with your child at home?

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” – Charles R. Swindoll

Check out these parent-child activities that you can try at home. They’re not only fun but will also help you deposit happy memories in your child’s bank.

1. Work together: Spring clean or do other housework

Not only do you get to keep your house clean, you can also help to your child cultivate the habit of doing housework. Through this, you can also reminisce about your past while going through your old items, be it an old photograph or toy.

2. Get creative together: Paint an art piece, make a candle, or make origami

Research shows that creativity can lead to growth in emotional, social and intellectual intelligence. Why not take the opportunity to help inject creativity in the otherwise, boring four walls? Here are somecute sculpturesthat you and your child can make using recycled materials.

3. Do something new together: Start gardening, sew something, or conduct a science experiment

Tired of the same old activities? Why not try something new with your child. Gardening or embroidery would be great for those with children of both genders as it does not discriminate by gender or age. If you prefer something more academically related, check out these 8 simple experiments that you can do with your child at home for a fruitful holiday. You may even learn a thing or two.

4. Get to know each other: Have a cuddly session to talk about each other’s likes/dislikes/dreams/aspirations

It may seem like you know your child very well since you are in the same home. But, think again, do you really know your child? Why not test yourself by playing a guessing game with your child, where you guess each other’s likes/dislikes. Here is a list of 63 fun questions for a lighthearted but insightful conversation. I guarantee you, there will definitely be something new you will learn about your child!

Written by: Kimberly Tan, Wong Sook Won

References 

Camille. (2020, April 7). 30 Creative Recycled Art Projects {for Kids}. My Mommy Style. https://www.mymommystyle.com/30-creative-art-projects-using-recycled-materials/

Charles R. Swindoll Quotes. (n.d.). A-Z Quotes. Retrieved May 22, 2020.  https://www.azquotes.com/author/14373-Charles_R_Swindoll

Magee, E. (2020, May 20). 63 Questions for Kids That Will Get Them Talking | Parents. Explore Parents. https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/questions-every-parent-should-ask-their-kid/

Sundermier, A. (2016, July 14). 8 simple science experiments you can do at home | Business Insider Singapore. https://www.businessinsider.sg/8-awesomely-simple-science-experiments-you-can-do-at-home-2016-7?r=US&IR=T

Positive Parenting – Confessions of a Sceptic-turned-Believer


What comes to your mind when you think of “positive parenting”?

For me, “positive parenting” sounded like a bunch of fluffy theories from the West, which told parents that discipline is bad; only praise and reward are needed.  Though we are pretty ‘Westernised’ in our lifestyle, much of our Asian culture and values remain strong. Moreover, haven’t we been told (and brought up with) not to “spare the rod” because it will “spoil the brat”? How can positive parenting work for us? I was truly sceptical.

But once I began to learn more about positive parenting, I was soon won over.  Now, I’d wished I have learnt earlier what positive parenting really meant, when my now grown-up girls were still kids. That would have saved me a lot of parenting stress, and my children the occasional hurts from punishments they didn’t deserve.

So, what was I wrong about positive parenting?

Myth #1: Positive parenting promotes indulgence and permissiveness.

Far from promoting these traits, the Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) recognises that indulgence and permissiveness are unhelpful. In fact, positive parenting helps fathers and mothers avoid parenting traps that often lead them to permissiveness and indulgence.

For example, a parent who refuses to let her child reach into the fridge for yet another handful of sweets may find her child throwing a tantrum.  If the parent finds these tantrums too much to bear, she may relent and let her child have more goodies. Sounds familiar? Triple P teaches that this teaches the child to learn that escalation helps her get what she wants – so it makes sense for her to throw more tantrums in the future. Positive parenting warns that parents who appease their child this way are rewarding the wrong behaviour. Instead of the child learning to obey her parent, the parent has ended up learning to be permissive.

Positive parenting guides parents on the use of more effective strategies – such as time out – to help their child calm down without giving in to her wants. The child will then learn that throwing tantrums is not helpful.

Myth #2: Positive Parenting does not believe in disciplining children. It’s all about reward.

There are many ways of disciplining children. Unfortunately, many of us grew up knowing only punitive discipline methods, such as the use of canes. Our parents resorted to these methods as they, like many of us, knew no better way to help our children. While such punishments may serve to deter undesirable behaviours temporarily, it does not help the child learn what good behaviours are and why they are necessary. Research has also shown that using punitive methods to deal with children’s misbehaviour has negative outcomes.

With Positive Parenting, the child learns that his or her behaviour has consequences.  Parents are advised to put in place rules for their children to abide by, along with carefully planned measures to deal with their children’s misbehaviour in a consistent manner. For example, when 2 siblings fight over a toy, a logical consequence could be to remove the object of contention for half an hour. If a teenager does not honour the given screen time limit, denying the teenager of his next screen time could be an option.

Therefore, I am convinced that all parents – current, aspiring, and even grandparents – to remain open-minded about positive parenting. The reason is simple – it works! The way we implement positive parenting in our unique culture and environment can be adapted without changing its spirit.  So, although positive parenting originated in the West, its principles are applicable to our Asian context.  Afterall, whether you are from the East or the West, all parents love their children and want the best for them. The principles that we find in positive parenting aim at helping parents achieve just that.

Written by: Lily Ching, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services

Reference

Sanders, M. R., Dadds, C. M., & Turner, K. M. (2013). Positive Parenting: Triple P Positive Parenting Solutions. The University of Queensland.

eC2: Online Counselling for youths – now open to all


eC2 is an online counselling service by Fei Yue Community Services for youths who require mental wellness support.  Our clients Miss J and Mr K shared with our counsellors the stress that they experienced in managing various personal challenges and the difficulties in keeping up with parental expectations.  These issues ranged from common issues such as exam stress and broken relationships to more complex issues such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.


Case 1: Miss J was fearful and distressed when she first contacted eC2.  She was afraid that she was not going to do well in her exams, even though she had been trying her best. Miss J felt that she was not doing well compared to her peers and would fail to meet her parents’ expectations and let them down.  But after speaking with her eC2 counsellor, Miss J was gradually reassured that it was more important to give her best and not to compare with others.  Miss J’s counsellor also encouraged her to speak to her parents about the expectations that she perceived they had, and to share her concerns with them.

Case 2: Mr K first contacted eC2 before the Circuit Breaker was implemented, and had shared how the COVID-19 situation had caused much stress for him and his family.  His father was unable to return from overseas and was worried over the family business and livelihood.  His mother was worried about getting infected and asked Mr K not to attend school.  Mr K was concerned that this would affect his academic performance. He felt overwhelmed coping with both of his distressed parents. Mr K’s eC2 counsellor attended to his anxiety and stress by helping him to calm down and explore ways to manage his mother’s anxiety, his school tasks and help the family business.


In view of the current COVID-19 situation, we recognise that this challenging period can be particularly stressful for many. Hence, our online counselling service – provided free-of-charge – is now open to all Singaporeans who would like to receive support from our counsellors and trained volunteers.

Visit eC2.sg to connect with us

Operational hours:  Mondays to Fridays, 10am – 12pm & 2pm – 5pm. 

Co-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19


As the world grapples with the unprecedented events brought on by COVID-19, parents who are separated or divorced are facing sudden and unfamiliar challenges in the area of co-parenting.

What does this mean for children of separated parents living in two different homes? While the exact circumstances of each separated family vary widely, here are some tips that can help families get through this period:

1. Keep to orders where possible. Court orders are still in effect during the circuit breaker period. In general, existing parenting arrangements should continue with precautionary measures in place: the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to restrict the other parent’s access to your child. Keeping to existing arrangements will help your child maintain normalcy and stability. In this turbulent time, children need to know that both their parents will be going through this with them.

With Home Based Learning (HBL) and now school holidays at home, there will be a lot of demands on parents to grapple with their children’s school holiday homework, tuition and enrichment classes. Share instructions and resources from schools with each other to reduce frustration and conflict between the adults and with the child. It is a stressful time and we can do our part to reduce uncertainty and confusion for each other.

2. Discuss changes together. Where changes to current access arrangements are necessary, do make alternative plans with the other parent and communicate concerns. Locations previously used for handovers may also no longer be open during this period, and new ones may need to be found.

In situations where one parent makes the difficult decision to temporarily forgo access for the safety of the child, the other parent should permit access through remote means such as Skype or video calls, and make plans to make up for physical access later. Parents not living with their child can also consider utilising postal, courier or food delivery services that are still running to connect with and show love to your child.

Expect the need to communicate with the other parent more frequently during this time, and exercise even greater flexibility under these testing circumstances.

3. Be transparent. Do account to each other for your child’s movements and physical interactions with others. With most families staying home, update the other parent on your child’s daily activities, including your child’s medical and emotional health, and progress in Home-Based Learning (HBL). This helps to build mutual assurance that both you and the other parent are abiding by COVID-19 guidelines in your respective households, with respect to social distancing, practising good personal hygiene, and modelling these positive examples to your child.

We hope these tips will help families maintain their bonds during this difficult time. Stay tuned for new tips in our next post!

Turning Away or Turning Towards?


Alice and Daniel have just been married for 8 months. After spending a lot of effort on building their dream home, they are looking forward to living a blissful married life. One night after dinner, Daniel took out a newly-bought game set and excitedly told Alice about how he spent a lot of time and money looking for the game. Alice started to remind him about the importance of saving up for their future and keeping their expenses to the essentials. Daniel went quiet……

Ken and Lily have been married for 10 years and have 3 children. They had mutually agreed that Lily would be a stay-at-home mother to focus on raising their children. Over the years, Ken and Lily had many arguments over their differences in parenting styles. Whenever Ken makes a comment on the children’s behaviour or results, Lily would become quiet, walk out of the room to occupy herself with chores, and refuse to talk to Ken for the rest of the day.

Do you find that you or your spouse shuts down whenever a conversation doesn’t go the way either of you want?

According to the research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, the key to staying happily married is to turn towards each other instead of turning away. “Turning towards” simply refers to catching hints from your partner for attention, affirmation, affection or any other positive connection. Such hints may come in the form of a wink, a grin, or rhetorical questions. But hints can be difficult to catch. So here are two things to keep in mind:

  1. Pay Attention – Face and look at your partner

  2. Focus on here & now – What do you see? What do you hear?

Facing and looking at your partner (cue: lovingly) lets him/her know that you are paying attention. Remember those courtship days when you were unable to peel your eyes off him/her? He/she is still the very same person you are looking at. Think back, and let that feeling wash over you.

Being present with your partner allows you to see what is here (the physical and facial expressions) and hear what is now (the content). It is not helpful to bring up past experiences that hurt you and your partner. Tackling the here and now lets you and your partner manage the issue objectively.

Clearly state what you see/hear that hurts you (e.g. issue, situation), share why you feel that way (describe its impact on you) and then offer what your partner can do for you next time (the way forward). For example, “When I hear you talk about our children’s behaviour, I feel hurt because it makes me feel that I am not a good mother. I hope you can listen to my difficulties in managing the children. Let’s work things out together.”

As Dr Julie Gottman puts it, “You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path”.

You have the power to choose your response. What will you choose today?

Reference

Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press.

Divorce Counselling [Part 1] – Looking out & Looking in


When 37-year-old Priya (not her real name) married her Singaporean husband and settled here as a Permanent Resident, she hardly expected having to consider a divorce. Cultural differences, financial conflicts and other tensions in marriage had escalated into domestic abuse by her husband on her and their two daughters. For the safety of her and her children, Priya eventually considered divorce.

Most couples consider divorce the last resort to end a marriage that has turned into a painful and difficult situation. But divorce is a life-changing event that can lead to high levels of stress. For Priya, the prospect of divorce placed her in a state of constant anxiety and worry over multiple issues. This included the fear of losing her Permanent Residency status sponsored by her husband, collecting sufficient evidence to file a Personal Protection Order against him, besides practical worries about finding stable employment to remain financially independent after divorce.

With such overwhelming demands confronting her all at once, Priya was left with little mental and emotional strength to carefully consider the impact of divorce on her children and to pay close attention to their well-being. Both Priya and her husband found themselves using various tactics to entice their daughters to love one parent more than the other.

With the help of a trained counsellor, Priya was able to make safety plans to protect herself and her children from abuse. Over time, Priya became aware of the need to consider her children’s interests above adult conflicts.  She realised that using her children to pass messages to her husband, and pressuring them to choose her over her husband was causing them great distress. As a result, she learned to put her differences with her husband aside to focus on their children’s welfare.

During the immediate lead-up and aftermath of divorce, extreme stress and a mental state of being in “survival mode” can cause us to be closed off to alternative solutions or considerations. Counselling can provide that platform for individuals to process and explore possible alternatives on a host of issues relating to finances, lifestyle habits, co-parenting methods and parent-child relationship issues. Sound and thorough planning from the start of divorce can have a long-term impact on your quality of life as well as the well-being of their children.

Divorce counselling helps clients to look outwards, to consider his or her external circumstances and evaluate the consequences of different choices and actions.

In the next article, we revisit Priya’s journey and consider the role of counselling in helping her look inwards as she copes with her divorce.

If you need someone to talk to on divorce matters, do connect with us at Healing [email protected] Yue by writing to [email protected].

Our counsellors provide divorce counselling support and other support programmes. More information available on our website: https://www.fycs.org/our-work/family/healing-heartsfei-yue/
Operational hours: Mondays to Fridays, 9.30am–6.00pm (last call-in at 5.00pm).

Helping Children Cope with COVID-19 Stress


By Fei Yue Community Mental Health Department

Every day, we grapple with news about the evolving COVID-19 situation, and that includes our kids. As parents, we play a vital role in helping our children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate and reduces anxiety and stress.

Here are some tips to help parents talk to their children about COVID-19:

  • Stay calm and reassuring. Children are very attuned to us, so we must be aware of what we transmit to them both verbally and non-verbally. They will react to both what you say and how you say it. Parents play a bigger role in their child’s sense of safety and security than other stressors in life.

  • Spend time to answer their questions. It is common for children to seek more attention and be more demanding during difficult times. Be sure to let children know they can come to you when they have questions. Remember to listen to your children. Speak kindly, reassure them, and avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

  • Provide age-appropriate information. Provide facts about what had happened, explain what is going on now, and give them clear guidelines about how to reduce the risk of being infected by COVID-19 in words that they can understand. Don’t overload the child with too much information. Children do not need to know every little thing. We do not want to give them information that will raise undue anxiety.

  • Keep to regular routines and schedules as much as possible. Consistency and structure help us stay grounded and calmer during times of stress. This is essential to children, especially younger ones, so that they know what to expect and do. Structured days with regular mealtimes, bedtimes, school/learning, as well as time for playing safely and relaxing are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy. Help create new activities in a new environment if need be. One tip is to plan a schedule and go over it as a family each morning.

  • Help children find positive ways to identify and express feelings such as anxiety, fear and sadness. Children can experience complex feelings like adults. Learning to identify and express feelings in a positive way (e.g. drawing, writing, dancing) will help children to develop the skills they need to manage them.

  • Be creative and make preventive measures fun. Some examples:

  1. Hand washing. Make washing hands more exciting by pretending there are two giant octopuses wrestling each other (while you sing happy birthday to them).

  2. Stop kids from touching their face. Draw up a counting chart. If anyone gets caught touching their face, they get a dot on the chart. The person with the least touches in a day gets a reward (e.g. extra scoop of ice-cream).

  3. Get kids to cover their mouth when they cough/sneeze. Grab a pen and draw a googly-eyed face at both their palm. Tell them that it’s their pet Palm Monster and it only eats sneezes and coughs.

If you need someone to talk to, Fei Yue Community Services provides online counseling support for COVID-related issues–visit eC2.org to connect with us

Our website is manned by counsellors and trained volunteers and is provided free-of-charge.
Operational hours: Mondays to Fridays 10am – 12pm 2pm – 5pm.

Reference

Children and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, March 23). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/children.html