A version of this letter was published on The Straits Times Forum at Forum: Help couples build strong foundation in marriage.
The ST article on the long-lasting impact of divorce on children was a sobering read (ST, Dec 8).
It is unfortunately not difficult to imagine such adverse consequences impacting children from divorced families; some of the young people we work with carry similar stories.
As sociologist Paulin Straughan pointed out, in every divorce, there is a high likelihood of a drawdown on the family’s financial, social and emotional back account (ST, Dec 8). This in turn affects the child in different ways.
Research has consistently shown that children thrive under the stability and security of a loving and healthy family (Day R. D., Hair E., et. al., 2009). Without the stability provided by a healthy marriage, a child faces greater risk of mental health problems. Studies have found depression and anxiety rates to be higher in children from divorced parents (Bohman H., Låftman S.B., et. al., 2017).
While the government provides various services targeting the family – from marriage preparation programmes to free online counselling and agencies providing divorce support – it is necessary to keep the focus upstream. Rather than lend support when the marriage hits rock bottom, why not journey with young couples and help them build a strong foundation for their lives?
What does this foundation entail?
To stabilise their marriage and set themselves up for success, every couple requires certain skills and support.
Specifically, relational skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution and active listening come to the fore. In every conflict situation, each party also needs to be able to suspend their own judgment and take the other person’s perspectives.
Through some of Focus on the Family Singapore’s marriage workshops such as Connect2, we equip young couples and newlyweds to recognise their own communication habits and to be aware of their spouse’s communication style. We also equip them to address common conflict trigger points, such as relationships with in-laws and parenting values, and to appreciate how their different family backgrounds have shaped the way they do life.
We have invested so much into upgrading our people’s skills for the digital economy in a bid to future-proof ourselves. It is time to future-proof our generations by investing in healthy and loving homes.
This can be achieved by giving young couples as well as those who have been married for some time, the skills and resources to manage their relationship well and communicate expectations respectfully.
It would mean not just stronger couples and lower divorce rates, but also healthier, more resilient generations raised in these homes down the line.
Focus on the Family Singapore
- Bohman, H., Låftman, S. B., Päären, A., & Jonsson, U. (2017). Parental separation in childhood as a risk factor for depression in adulthood: a community-based study of adolescents screened for depression and followed up after 15 years. BMC psychiatry, 17(1), 117. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1252-z
- Day, R.D., Hair, E., Moore, K.A., Orthner, D.K., Kaye, K., (2009). Marital Quality and Outcomes for Children and Adolescents: A Review of the Family Process Literature. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/marital-quality-and-outcomes-children-and-adolescents-review-family-process-literature#Summary