“Jane, daddy will not be staying with us any more.”
That’s simply saying “We’re getting a divorce!”
For some time now, the home that was once a sanctuary, was noticeably becoming more like a war zone with no place of refuge. She is caught up in a cross-fire of scorn and animosity. Soon, though she doesn’t know it yet, she will have to leave behind the familiar and to expect an uncertain future. She is sad, scared, and lonely all at the same time. She has more questions than answers.
Divorce resolves the issues between parents and enables them to move on with their individual lives. For the child, divorce traps them in a nightmarish reality. Once the beautiful fruit of the marriage, she is being fought over like a trophy for the more deserving parent.
The ‘more deserving parent’? Shouldn’t parents be more concerned about what the child needs and deserves? Most scholars agree that a child needs to be “raised by two biological parents” (Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill) even when the marriage is dissolved.
Co-parenting (or shared parenting) after divorce helps the child to feel she still has two parents whose love and care for her remains unchanged by the divorce.
In Singapore, the courts differentiate between “Custody” and “Care and Control.” Child Custody grants the custodial parent(s) authority to make major decisions regarding their child, which includes: education, religion and health conditions of the child. However, Care and Control is only given to one parent, who will be involved in the child’s day-to-day matters. The other parent will be granted access to the child for certain periods.
Increasingly, Singapore courts are giving more joint custody orders to both parents after the divorce, while Care and Control is only given to one parent. The children typically end up in sole parenting care versus shared-parenting, with the other parent only spending little time with the child.
Numerous research, including those by Malin Bergstrom and Dr. Linda Nielsen, found that children in shared parenting arrangements have better outcomes – have less behavioural problems and psychological symptoms – than children in sole care.
Therefore, try to work towards Co-Parenting, though Care and Control may be awarded to a single parent.
Eight Co-Parenting tips
Before the Divorce
1)Seeing a marriage counsellor when you have decided on divorce is as important as trying to mend the marriage
Co-parenting is possible when marriage comes to an amicable closure. The couple counselling sessions will help couples to talk through their issues calmly with a good conclusion, enabling them to continue to communicate and share parenting responsibilities.
2) Agree and convey a consistent reason for the divorce
This helps your children not to guess and think they have caused it. Sometimes children can pick up the wrong message during parent’s arguments and blame themselves for causing the marriage breakup. It is therefore important to assure them that it is not their doing.
3) Break the news together to your children
Children need to feel they are important and parents have considered their interests in their decision to divorce. Sharing the news together shows that both of you will continue to be part of their lives. They will not end up solely with mum or dad.
4) Both Parents present to hear your children’s responses
Mum and dad are there for them and they can openly and safely express their feelings of sadness, anger and frustrations. They have a sense that both of you will hear their opinions, especially with teenage children. They might disagree and you may have to take time to help them accept your decision.
5) Assurance that living arrangements remain the same
Your children need stability and a sense of security in their lives. You may wish to consider allowing one spouse to live in the same house with the children as before, minimising the disruption to their routines of home life and school. They already have to accept that they will not see mum or dad daily, thus having some normalcy will help them cope better.
6) Consistent Parenting style
It is an important factor in co-parenting that parents are consistent in their parenting style so that children will not be confused and insecure.
7) Routine schedule for the children to be with each parent
A routine schedule is assuring to the children and reduces anxiety. It helps them to adapt to their new life. Also, it minimises a sense of rejection and abandonment, affecting their secure attachment needs.
8) Parents are not hostile towards each other
This helps in managing arrangements for co-parenting and sleepovers. Also, children will not be caught up or triangulated in their parent’s continuous fight when they are spending time with their dad or mum. They would be freed from feeling conflicted whom they should help, allowing for quality time spent with each parent.
Article was by Ruby Lee, Marital Therapist and Counsellor, Parenting Coach @Life Affinity Counselling, www.lifeaffinity.com, 82546633 (sms for appointments)
New Swedish Study Shows Shared Parenting The Best Arrangement Post-Divorce, September 18, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
10 Surprising Findings on Shared Parenting After Divorce or Separation, JUNE 20, 2017, Dr. Linda Nielsen, Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology, Wake Forest University.