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I Need to be Heard: Children’s Voices in Divorce

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Divorce brings with it a whole lot of complex emotions for parents, and even more so for their children, who are likely to find it difficult to make sense of the losses and changes within the family.

There is much that children from divorced families have to deal with: Decreased contact with the parent who has moved out; transiting from one home to shuttling between two homes; changes in daily routines and caregiving arrangement; no longer having family gatherings/outings together; dealing with conflicting loyalties to both parents and the list goes on.

While every child’s response may differ, many children experience emotions of grief, confusion, fear of abandonment, anxiety and even anger. Numerous research has shown that divorce puts children at a higher risk of experiencing short-term and long-term developmental issues, be it psychologically, academically, socially, or emotionally (Amato, 2000).

There are, however, mitigating factors that affect the outcomes. These factors include:

  1. The duration and degree of parental conflicts during and post-divorce;

  2. The quality of parenting;

  3. The quality of the relationship between parent and their child;

  4. Parents’ own well-being in navigating the divorce process (Pedro-Carroll, 2011).

Parents, therefore, play a vital role in supporting their children through the multiple transitions of a divorce.

When parents are themselves grappling with the enormous pain and stresses of the end of a marriage, it is challenging for them to attend to their children’s emotions. Sensing the tension at home, some children may not feel safe sharing their feelings with their parents. This is especially so for children with a more sensible and thoughtful nature; they often fear that any disclosure of their feelings may upset either parent or stir up further strife between them. As such, many children do not have an outlet to express their feelings and needs.

For some families, parents may lack the skills to attend to their children’s difficult emotions. Support resources from schools or social service agencies will come in helpful in supporting children through their transition. One such programme is The Children of Divorce Intervention Programme (CODIP). This programme, first developed in 1982 in the U.S, is ‘based on an awareness of the stresses that parental divorce poses for children and a belief that divorce does not inevitably have to mean long-term trauma for children.’ (Pedro-Caroll, 1987) The programme was brought into Singapore and contextualized for local clients in 2022.

CODIP is an evidence-based preventive groupwork programme. CODIP focuses on providing a safe platform for children to express and understand their feelings related to parents’ divorce, so they do not feel so isolated. It also seeks to promote understanding about divorce and address common misconceptions children often have about divorce. Eg. Many young children have the idea that they are the cause of their parents’ divorce, or their parents will abandon them one day.

Another focus of the programme is to help children acquire coping and problem-solving skills. They will learn how to manage their feelings. CODIP also places emphasis on enhancing children’s perception of self and their families. Some children may feel inferior due to the changes in their family structure. CODIP seeks to direct children to focus on their own uniqueness and develop positive regard for their families despite the changes.

CODIP is suitable for children aged 7-12. The number of participants at each run will be kept at a maximum of 10. It consists of 1 introductory session for parents and 6 two-hourly sessions for children that run weekly on Friday evenings. If you are concerned about your children’s well-being or are interested to find out more about CODIP, contact us at [email protected] or 6235 5229.

Written by Carolyn Ku, Counsellor, FAM@FSC (Fei Yue-Choa Chu Kang)

Reflection Questions

  1. How are my children feeling now?

  2. What can I do to help them express their feelings?


Amato, P. R. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of marriage and family62(4), 1269-1287.

Pedro-Carroll, J. L. (2011). How parents can help children cope with separation/divorce. Encyclopedia on early childhood development, 17-23.

Pedro-Carroll, J. L., Alpert-Gillis, L. J., & Sterling, S. E. (1987). Children of Divorce Intervention Program: Procedures manual for conducting support groups with 2nd and 3rd grade children. Children of Divorce Intervention Program, University of Rochester, Center for Community Study.