Is it possible to have a divorce without adversely impacting your children?

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A divorce does not affect only the adults splitting up. It also affects their children, and to some degree, their extended families and circle of friends. The loaded question, however, is how will the divorce impact the children.

Many researchers looked into the topic, but the results are complex. Some children bounced back quickly and appeared happier after the divorce. Others took a longer time, but do not suffer any adverse effects. A small number of kids had difficulties for prolong periods.

Various factors determine the outcome of each child’s reaction. Still, results pointed to the different circumstances that every individual child was in before the divorce as the main reason for the child’s ability to cope.

1) Toxic Family Environment
Many Singapore divorce lawyers found a high level of stress in children with toxic familial environments. A home where Dad and Mon did not get along kindled frequent fights. Such conflicts frightened and stressed the children. It also could potentially lead to problems at schools and behavioural issues. The divorce removed the children from the toxic environment, and usually place them into a home with only one parent or with a guardian. Once the children no longer stayed in a highly stressed house, they bounced back quickly and would even express their relief or happiness that the divorce happened.

2) Confusion and Self-Blame
Some parents hid their unhappy marriage from the children. When the parents finally told their kids about the upcoming split, the children were unable to accept the sudden change. The children become confused, and some would blame themselves. Other would think that their parents were abandoning them. The children would bounce back eventually when they accepted the change in their lives and gained an understanding of their new lifestyle moving forward. The kids may take longer to recover from the shock, but they will work out the confusion, especially if the parents stopped hiding their unhappiness with each other.

3) Pretence
Human relationships are funny things. Some people got along better as friends than as a couple. Children might not benefit from a divorce if the parents got along better after the split. The complicated relationship confused children, and they wondered why Dad and Mum couldn’t stay married when they were getting along. The children might experience a sense of betrayal and pretence, leading to unhealthy thoughts and behavioural problems. It also caused a prolonged period of confusion and self-blame, resulting in considerable damage in children.

To better understand the impact of divorce on children, we spoke to one of the senior lawyers, Ms Shereen Goklani, from Gloria-James Civetta (GJC) to ask her more about the impact on children.

As a family lawyer, can you share your thoughts on the impact of divorce on children in Singapore?
“When handling divorces, it is crucial to be mindful of the long-lasting impact that dissolved marriages can have on the children, especially in contested proceedings. I try to relate to the children by understanding how they are feeling or coping. It helps me to be more empathetic and allows me to generate more options which are solution-centric.”

What can divorcing parents do to minimise the hurt and confusion experienced by their children?
“Children often cannot fathom why their family unit is separating and may wonder if they would be separated or abandoned by a parent. It is vital to reassure your children that you love them and will always be there. Hearing the reassurance [repeatedly] helps them feel safe and secure. [You need to] exhaust all attempts at co-parenting positively without bringing your children into any disputes. It is also helpful to be civil and amicable to each other.”

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