CHIL­DREN AND DI­VORCE

Our ex­pert shares his ex­per­tise on how cou­ples should han­dle a di­vorce, es­pe­cially when kids are in­volved. By Kate Ng

Herworld (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

Strate­gies for han­dling a di­vorce when kids are in­volved.

Get­ting a di­vorce can be messy, stress­ful and dev­as­tat­ing – re­ally tak­ing a toll on your men­tal and emo­tional well­be­ing. The whole sit­u­a­tion be­comes even more com­pli­cated if the di­vorce is not mu­tual, and there are chil­dren to think about as well. Cus­tody bat­tles can some­times get ugly, so mak­ing sure the chil­dren feel loved by both mum and dad is imperative to help­ing them process the di­vorce.

THE BIG D

First, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the di­vorce process. The most trou­ble­free route is a mu­tual di­vorce, where both par­ties agree on all terms and work to­gether to find so­lu­tions that will ben­e­fit them both. These di­vorces are usu­ally re­solved within two to three months. In the event ei­ther party does not agree, the party that wants to ini­ti­ate the di­vorce will have to go through a tri­bunal, where a mid­dle­man steps in to try and work out a so­lu­tion. If the cou­ple fails to rec­on­cile, the tri­bunal is­sues a cer­tifi­cate, which allows the party ini­ti­at­ing the di­vorce to file for it with­out wor­ry­ing about the other’s re­fusal.

The next thing to think about is, how do you tell your chil­dren? Dato’ Arunan says that chil­dren nowa­days are more ma­ture and can un­der­stand what’s go­ing on. “It’s ac­tu­ally un­healthy for chil­dren

to see con­flicts and phys­i­cal fights be­tween their par­ents – it’s very trau­ma­tis­ing,” he says. “It’s im­por­tant to not fight in front of your chil­dren. You should also sit down with your ex-part­ner and dis­cuss how you are go­ing to break the news to the chil­dren.”

YOUR ROLE AS A PAR­ENT

Some­times, chil­dren blame them­selves for the di­vorce, and this guilt can be car­ried for­ward well into adult­hood. And, it’s true that many cou­ples do fight be­cause of their chil­dren. “It’s a hor­ri­ble thing be­cause for the rest of their lives, these chil­dren blame them­selves for what tran­spired.” Dato’ Arunan also strongly ad­vises against us­ing your chil­dren as in­stru­ments against your ex-part­ner, as it re­ally does them harm. On the other hand, par­ents shouldn’t just sweep it un­der the rug when it comes to the chil­dren.

“They will won­der why their par­ents aren’t sleep­ing to­gether and live sep­a­rately. The kids are grow­ing up and they’re not stupid, they need to know. You must give them the as­sur­ance that just be­cause you don’t get along with their fa­ther any more, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them,” he says. The cus­tody process may seem fright­en­ing to start with, but Dato’ Arunan says that in most cases, moth­ers are granted cus­tody of the chil­dren up till their teenage years – as long as the mother is ca­pa­ble phys­i­cally, men­tally, and emo­tion­ally.

“Stay-at-home mums of­ten worry about the fi­nan­cial bur­den they may have to take on when they get cus­tody of the chil­dren. But they don’t need to, be­cause they can make an ap­pli­ca­tion to the court to re­quest that the ex-hus­band pays for main­te­nance of the house­hold and the chil­dren,” he clar­i­fies.

Chil­dren have some say in the cus­tody process – but not in all cases – and the judge will take into con­sid­er­a­tion an older child’s wish to re­main with one par­ent. “But judges are also wary of ei­ther par­ent in­flu­enc­ing the chil­dren in their favour. This tends to hap­pen closer to the hear­ing date. Some­times the par­ent in ques­tion doesn’t even bother about the chil­dren, but one or two weeks be­fore the date of the hear­ing, he or she will start to buy presents and take them for hol­i­days, just to psy­cho­log­i­cally re­as­sure the chil­dren that they are taken care of,” says Dato’ Arunan.

Chil­dren re­act to di­vorce in dif­fer­ent ways, and some lash out more than oth­ers. Dato’ Arunan says that the worst re­ac­tions he has seen al­ways in­volve chil­dren who used to do well in school or so­cially, but be­gin to seek out bad in­flu­ences be­cause they feel their par­ents don’t re­spect or care for them. “Some­times they feel very in­se­cure about the fu­ture, and no longer see the point in any­thing,” he elab­o­rates.

THE WORRY THAT FOL­LOWS

It’s also of great con­cern to him when there is abuse or vi­o­lence in the fam­ily. “In vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tions, where one par­ent beats the other, chil­dren think it’s okay and then do the same in school by bul­ly­ing other chil­dren,” he says.

“If you can han­dle the sit­u­a­tion in a con­struc­tive way, then you wouldn’t have to put your kids through ther­apy. There are pros and cons to ther­apy, and it de­pends on the ther­a­pist you’re see­ing – you know your chil­dren best. They may also feel that go­ing to a ther­a­pist or psy­chi­a­trist means they have men­tal prob­lems, caus­ing them to be­come un­able to man­age their thoughts.”

Watch our Hang Out with Her World dis­cus­sion on this topic on our YouTube chan­nel

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