CONFRONTING DIVORCE IN TODAY'S SOCIETY
In the current landscape of divorce in Singapore, youths and experts share more about the effects brought upon by divorce in recent years.
By Tham Ya and Z'en Peck
Infographic by: Tham Ya and Z'en
According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, there has been a rise in divorce rates, with 7623 divorces in 2019, a 3.6 per cent increase from 7344 divorces in 2018.
Despite the increase, divorce remains a sensitive and emotional topic, especially among youths of divorce. From the breaking of family bonds to adapting to an upheaval in their lives, youths face various challenges ranging from their academics to emotional well-being.
Shannon Yan, 19, whose parents divorced when she was 7 years old, mentioned that she is hesitant to get married in the future after experiencing the effects of her parents’ divorce first-hand.
With increasing divorce rates around the world, Dr Susan Kay-Flowers, senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “Marriage itself is much less popular than it was so we have many more people cohabiting now than marrying.”
Furthermore, youths of divorce often compare themselves with youths from intact families, giving rise to negative emotions.
“I'm jealous that the other kids don't have these kinds of worries in their lives at that point of time,” said Nurassufi Bin Abdul Alif, 19, whose parents divorced when he was 7 years old.
Aside from jealousy, youths tend to question why they have to face such adversities at a young age.
Shannon recalls questioning why her parents had to separate, and that the separation would deprive her of “all the memories that [they] could possibly be making”.
Through confiding in her grandparents on the divorce, Shannon is glad that her parents separated, for it would have been a very “toxic household” if they stayed together. “You just need to know that if it was meant to end, it would have ended sooner or later… You just have to accept it,” she said.
“As children get older, they perhaps have a greater understanding about relationships and the complexities of relationships. They come to understand that their parents actually would have really struggled to stay together and that their childhood would have been more difficult if their parents hadn't actually recognised their differences and gone their own ways,” Dr Kay-Flowers said.
She also mentioned that speaking to a grandparent or trusted person would be helpful as they provide a safe environment for youths to share about their thoughts and feelings, as well as a different perspective on the issue.
When coming to terms with their parents’ divorce, Mr Donovan Teo, a student counsellor at Ngee Ann Polytechnic mentioned that youths were more focused on self-improvement after their bad experiences with divorce. For instance, they wished to become better parents in the future as they did not wish to put their children through what they had experienced.
Due to stereotypes of divorces being uncommon in conservative societies like Singapore, people have difficulties bringing it up in fear of exclusivity and the lack of understanding.
Shannon was conscious of her family status after opening up to her teachers. “You feel like they feel very sorry for you even though it doesn't really impact you much… It's more about how people will look at me as an individual,” she said. “So I didn't really want to talk about it as something that was in my everyday life.”
Youths wish for an increase in awareness on divorce so that people can be more understanding of their situations. “It should be a topic that needs to be addressed more with divorce on the rise in recent years,” Sufi said.
“I think a society where you can actually talk openly about family relationships and empathise with others is important,” Dr Kay-Flowers said.
With the lack of addressment, affected youths lacking a trusted figure in their lives often bottle up their feelings instead of seeking help.
“Children don't know that they need to let it out,” Mr Teo said. “Because of stigma, or the lack of knowledge and awareness, children don't seek help such as counselling.”
Ultimately, it is important for society to support families of divorce in the long run by accepting each family’s differences and circumstances.
“It helps them to understand that the world isn't perfect, and their lives aren't perfect, and the complexities of relationships because they're able to share about that more openly.” Dr Kay-Flowers said.