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What Children of Divorce Feel About Family

Credit: Jo Panuwat D /

What Children of Divorce Feel About Family

Our future need not be defined by our past

Published on 18 October, 2023

Credit: Jo Panuwat D /

John Lim


John is a Registered Social Worker who worked in a family service centre before leaving to run Media Lede, a content agency that focuses on creating purposeful content centred on social issues.

Connie, 28, laughed before she started the interview.

“My family is really, really messy. Are you ready?” she quipped.

Her father was married thrice before he met her mother, whilst her mother was married twice before she met him. Even when he married her mother, he was already having an affair outside of the marriage.

It meant that when she grew up, she already had 2 older stepsiblings living with her, and 2 younger siblings to take care of.

Growing up, there were regular fights outside the home. Because their home was small, Connie heard everything.

Even after those fights, her mother would come and recount to her the details. Once she remembered being with her mum when her mum discovered a receipt of something her father had bought for his girlfriend.

Her mother cried.

And even though Connie was only 9 at that time, she immediately advised, “You should leave him.”

When she was 9, her parents separated. She admitted that she had a part to play in that, telling her mother something her father had revealed to her in confidence.

“Yes, in a way, I can say I activated the divorce. I felt sad but also a sense of relief. Moving around my grandma’s and aunt’s places was not easy.”

Connie recalled that much of her schooling years was spent in a state of depression, and she often complained, “My life sucks. What kind of life is this?”

Even at the age of 12, she had to take care of her 4 and 5-year-old siblings, fetching them back from school, and cooking for them.

She began to see how divorce had affected her childhood, forcing her to grow up much faster, and thus she could not enjoy her childhood like other children could.

Trying to make the best out of divorce

“But I wanted to contribute to this article because divorce can be damaging to young children. And I wanted to share how I bounced back from that difficult period.”

Connie believes that many people hold onto their marriages for the sake of their children.

While this is a worthy cause, and couples should make every effort at rebuilding the marriage, including seeking help, one must also realise that children often can pick up the tensions within the marriage, and it can be difficult for them.

Trying to keep things together just for the children can be like pouring poor-quality glue into a deep crack in a pot. It often takes deep and hard emotional work to resolve the differences and tensions that have built up over the years.

So perhaps what is required of couples is an ongoing, intentional work to grow their marriage and an openness to seek guidance from other, more experienced couples with the issues that may surface along the way.

Jonathan, 28, also saw his parents divorce at the age of 12. He remembered how he frequently went to school crying, because of how hard it was to see his parents separate.

Surprising though, he managed to turn his adversity into opportunity. He worked hard at his studies, so that he could make both his parents proud.

Amanda, a 22-year-old university student, agreed that her parents’ divorce had caused her to grow up faster. As a child, she witnessed her father physically abusing her mum during fights. Eventually, her parents divorced when she was 9.

The importance of communication

Connie did learn something from her parents though.

Her mum communicated the reasons for the divorce to her, rather than keeping them in the dark, thinking that children wouldn’t understand what was happening.

“This helped us in not having an open wound when we were trying to figure out why our parents were leaving each other,” she revealed.

Amanda’s mum also opened up to her when Amanda asked why the divorce had happened. She even explained that she was pushing Amanda so hard in her studies so that this cycle of broken families didn’t have to continue in her generation.

For her mother, education was a key ladder out of the generational cycle of broken families.

Connie also confided in her friend, who was 4 years older. She admits that she would probably be some “bad kid” now if she didn’t have the advice of this older friend.

Having a place where she could rant and find a different perspective helped her to deal with the loneliness of having to settle all these adult affairs alone.

“We shouldn’t perceive that the future will turn out like the past.”

Hopes for her future family

As Connie grew up, she found herself disillusioned by the idea of marriage. She had seen all her immediate family, such as her aunties and uncles, have affairs and divorces.

She felt marriage was just a piece of paper to make things more convenient for all parties. She didn’t believe that it would work.

But then she met her boyfriend, who helped her to see that there was good in love and being loved. And that love is a choice we make, day in, day out. She shared, “We shouldn’t perceive that the future will turn out like the past.”

Amanda added that the tensions within her parents’ marriage helped her to see that healthy marriage needed constant communication, and not a single point of commitment.

She’s thus taken important lessons in communicating with her current partner about their expectations. For example, when to have kids, and how many to have has been a feature in their discussions.

No perfect families

Yet as Connie’s story shows, children of divorce can still try to make the best of their situations, if they are willing to forgive, move on, and recognise that there aren’t perfect parents, perfect marriages, or perfect families.

There are only imperfect ones, brought together again and again, through a willingness to repair ruptures, whatever it takes.

For privacy reasons, pseudonyms have been used in this article.

John Lim


John is a Registered Social Worker who worked in a family service centre before leaving to run Media Lede, a content agency that focuses on creating purposeful content centred on social issues.

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