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Supporting Children Going Through Parental Separation

Image of Supporting Children Going Through Parental Separation

Children are often caught in between parents when they argue and fight.  Sometimes, these conflicts have a huge impact on children’s development and their relationships with their parents.

Though every child differs in their responses to parents’ strained relationship, many research has shown that marital problems that result in divorce put children at a higher risk of experiencing some of the following issues:

  • Emotional: Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, low self-esteem, and anger.

  • Behavioural: Aggression, delinquency, and conduct disorders.

  • Academic: Difficulty in school, school refusals and poor grades.

  • Social: Problems with peers, social isolation, and difficulty forming relationships.

When the marriage can no longer be salvaged, what can parents do to protect their children from the emotional harm of divorce?

  1. Be honest with the children.

Explain to them that the marriage has reached a point where mummy and daddy can no longer live together.  Both should agree about how to explain the reason for divorce in a simple and age-appropriate way that does not bad-mouth each other.

Both parents should find a good time to talk to the children together and be ready to answer their questions they have during that time or when they have questions later.

  1. Sincerely apologize to the children and assume responsibility for any wrong that has caused the breakdown of the family.

  2. Emphasize and assure the children that they are not the reason for the marital breakdown. Do not assign blame of any kind on them.

  3. Assure them of continued support and love.

Give them the permission to continue to love each parent and assure them of the ability to continue to spend time with each parent.

  1. Prepare them and help them anticipate the changes that will take place.

Give them the assurance of continual support and stability in their routines.  Try not to make multiple changes at the same time.

Every child processes such circumstances differently depending on their developmental age and maturity.  It is important to be sensitive to their needs and feelings.

Don’t pressure them to talk about divorce if they are not ready.  Offer them support by being there for them, giving them space and letting them know that you love them.  Close friends and relatives can be a good source of practical support and encouragement so do not cut them off from people they are attached to.

Look out for red flags such as isolating or self-harming behaviours, changes in sleeping and eating patterns.  If there are emotional or behaviour signs that you are concerned about, seek professional counselling services or inform their teachers who can help to arrange for school counsellors to attend to their emotional needs.

If you are going through a divorce and would like emotional support for yourself or your children, reach out to us via [email protected] or call us at 62355229. We provide free counselling and support group programmes for divorcing families.  Alternatively, approach CPH Online Counselling services for live web chat counselling (live chat), phone counselling (arranged through live chat) and email counselling https://www.cphonlinecounselling.sg/hc/en-us   

Written By: Joanna Lim, Assistant Director, Fei Yue Community Services

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I or my children show emotional or behavioural signs that may indicate help is needed?

  2. What are my children’s thoughts and emotions regarding the divorce?