Supporting Your Child Through Divorce

Separation and divorce can be the most challenging time for a family. Although the breakup is between parents, it impacts the entire family and emotions can often fly high while trying to navigate through this period. The good news is that the majority of kids whose parents divorce do cope and the impact can be small if it is managed well. The following pointers offer some basic guidance.

How to tell your child

If possible, both parents should be present to break the news. Divorce creates change and uncertainty for children which can be de-stabilising, before speaking with your children have an agreed way forward of how the new situation will work for all family members (e.g. living arrangements, contact with both parents, how parents will continue communication). Speak honestly and admit that is it sad, but spare the child too much detail. Ensure they know the breakup is between the adults and has nothing to do with them, this may need repeating a number of times to offer reassurance.

Expect a mix of reactions

Depending on your child’s age and personality factors (e.g. coping skills, resiliency, communication skills, etc.), your child or children will process and express the news in different ways. It is not unusual for children to express anger, lose sleep, have anxiety, act out, lose appetite, etc. If you feel comfortable enough to share the news with the school, teachers can monitor your child and update you on any change in behaviour. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling about the divorce and legitimise their feelings by showing you understand their perspective (e.g. ‘I know you feel sad that dad doesn’t live here anymore).

Keep your child out of the disagreements between you and your ex

Even though you may be feeling hurt by your ex, avoid speaking badly of your ex in front of your child. Don’t fight or bring up disagreements in front of your child. Avoid confiding in your child or giving your child information about the details of the separation and don’t make them choose sides.

Maintain rules and boundaries

This period will lead to inevitable changes in the family, which can create feelings of anxiety and uncertainty for your child. As much as possible keep routines and boundaries consistent. Maintain similar rules across both households, even if your child is testing boundaries.

Put your child first

Throughout the process, parents can get caught up in what is fair for them. It is important to focus on what is good for the children, even when this may not always be good for the parent. Look after yourself and seek help and support, if you are not managing your emotions then it is difficult to have the capacity to help your child through this period.

Written by:
Dr. Jennifer Greene
Consultant Educational & Child Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Some further reading and resources:
‘Putting Children First: proven parenting strategies for helping children thrive through divorce’ by Joanne Pedro-Carroll
‘Joint custody with a Jerk’ by Julie A Ross and Judy Corcoran
‘The Invisible String’ by Patricia Karst (to read with children aged 4-8 years)
‘The Suitcase kid’ by Jacqueline Wilson (for children aged 9-11 years)

Preventing affair in marriage

Marriage is a source of happiness but in affairs, heartache and pain are most intense. Moreover, if it leads to divorce, its adverse ripple effects dwell long and deep in both partners and the children.

Like driving in a treacherous, winding road, when unwarned, we drive leisurely or even at high speed, negligent of danger. But when alerted to warning signs, we exercise caution, slow down, and are extra watchful. Thus, we avert fatal accidents.

Usually, people do not intentionally have an affair. They are mostly caught unaware. Relationships developed in close proximity in the office or business meetings. By and by, conversations deepen, feelings develop, and before they know it, they are in an intimate relationship. So here are a few tips on being vigilant on the road of marriage and warning signs to heed.

1) Be aware of any distance that has developed between you and your partner. Identify your need and gently make your request known to your partner. For example, say “I notice that we are having tiffs about household chores often. I really like to have more peace at home. Can we sit down and talk this over and see what I can do to help you feel better?” Notice this is not finger-pointing nor a power struggle but stating your need and phrasing it in a way that contributes to the partner’s sense of well-being. Be a model of good communication rather than a critic. Affair usually meets an unmet need in marriage. An unaddressed dissatisfaction becomes long drawn likely causes the partner to look elsewhere to meet an unmet need.

2) Build a secure sense of self. It is easier to blame our partner for our dissatisfaction with the relationship. But marriage is an interaction between 2 persons. The only behaviour we can change is our own. Our marital relationship mirrors our relationship with parents – is there a lesson or discovery to be made from our family of origin?

3) One of the innocent ways of starting an affair is to share your marital dissatisfaction with your friend/ colleague of the opposite gender – resist that. Instead, seek professional help.

As early detection of cancer has a higher success rate of treatment, early intervention in marital discord increases the chances of repair.

Written by:
Tan Soh Hiang
Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Does unconditional love exist?

Could there be a debate between people who prefer dogs and those who prefer cats? We can be certain of one thing: the unconditional love we receive from our pets is good for our health.
Whether you are greeted at the door by your dog wagging his tail yapping happily or by your cat looking at you indifferently and seems to mean “Oh, it’s just you”, the fact is that animals give us as much love as we can take, and more.

Many studies have looked at the health benefits of pets, and the result is always positive. If you live alone, a pet can bring you the comfort of a friend or family member.  Pets have a very beneficial effect on our social and emotional well-being. Just knowing that “someone” is waiting for you at home at the end of the day is enough to help you feel good. Pets can also reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show that patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience fewer anxiety episodes when there is an animal in the house. Even those who care for these patients experience less stress and improve their well-being when a pet lives in the home.
People in high-stress employment areas were to find out that animals positive effect on high blood pressure. Playing with your dog and pampering your cat really lowers blood pressure. It also helps reduce high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Some cat owners find that the sound of the purr of their cat is enough to inspire calm. Animal owners are known to be happier, healthier, and more responsive people than people who do not.
Specifically, pet owners have greater self-esteem, are in better physical shape, are less bored, are more conscientious and more extroverted, and tend to be less fearful and less concerned than people who do not.
Dr. McConnell titled his research, Friends with Benefits: The Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership, and goes on to say that in fact dog owners show more feelings of belonging and self-esteem, and they have a happy life.

Written by:
Saveria Cristofari
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

5 ways to bond with your partner

Think back about the time when you and your partner first started dating. You might have talked on the phone into the wee hours of the morning, getting to know each other deeply. Or went on those long walks just to spend more time with each other. In those experiences, the bonding that took place helped to further your relationship as you grow in mutual understanding and admiration.

As it is now, you may have long exited that “honeymoon” phase of your relationship. Or perhaps, a kid or two may have entered into your busy lives. Your couple bonding time may have decreased in both quantity and quality. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some things you can try out as a couple to reinvigorate bonding.

  • Shake up date nights

If you have been visiting the same diner or doing the same activity for your date nights, why not immerse yourselves in a new experience? For instance, a playful time in the fun fair or compete in a game of bowling (winner gets to be fed dessert!). Or perhaps, driving to the beach and have a picnic under the stars.

  • Pick up a hobby together

Or better still, teach each other something that you personally enjoy. It could be a language or a musical instrument. Learning from each other and pursuing common interests are great ways to improve fondness and understanding.

  • Scrapbook together

In this digital age, perhaps many of your couple photos are stored in your mobile devices. One good bonding activity is to print out these photos (even those from decades ago) and creatively display them in a scrapbook. Relive and preserve these memories, and tell your couple story through scrapbooking. You can also include other memorabilia from your dating times.

  • Talk about your day

As cliché as it sounds, the question “how’s your day, darling?” can be a powerful invitation to emotional connection. Listen intently to your partner’s sharing without judgment, and resist the urge to problem solve. Instead, demonstrate empathy and understanding.

  • Get to know each other’s inner world

Try this little activity. Answer the following questions on your own to see how much you truly know about your partner before checking in with each other:

  • What first attracted my partner to me?
  • What is my partner’s favourite childhood memory?
  • What is my partner’s favourite movie?
  • What is my partner’s favourite music?
  • What is my partner’s favourite holiday destination?
  • What is my partner’s proudest moment in life?
  • Who was my partner’s very first best friend?
  • What is my partner’s dream career?
  • What stresses are my partner facing lately?

How did you fare? Renowned relationship therapist, Dr. John Gottman (2007), finds that emotionally intelligent couples know and remember key events in each other’s history, and would continually keep up to date with each other’s inner world. Intimate knowledge of your partner serves to deepen your bond and prepares you to better manage stressful events and conflict.


Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2007) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. US: Orion Publishing.

Written by:
Justin Peter
SACAC Counselling

Stages of Marriage

In my years of providing marital counselling, I’ve noticed that marriage is a living, dynamic relationship that can be said to have a life of its own. It is filled with ups and downs, and develops distinct personalities as it goes through different stages in its lifetime. Thus, a married couple can find themselves relating to each other in a variety of roles through the years – as friends, as lovers, as spouses, as the parent of their child, etc. Understanding the dynamics of each stage of marriage will help the couple to navigate through the joys and challenges.  The key stages of a marriage can be characterised by the 3 P’s – Pairing, Parenting and Partnership (Yeo, 1999):

The Pairing Stage

The pairing stage could well begin even before the wedding day when two individuals decide to enter into the romantic phase of the relationship. They learn about each other’s personality, discover likes and dislikes, find commonalities etc. The key adjustment the couple has to make in this stage is to transit from life as a single to life as a duo. In addition to attuning to each other, a married couple also has to learn to “make room” in their lives for their respective parent-in-laws, who will be ushered in as a part of their family.

The Parenting Stage

The parenting stage typically begins upon the arrival of the first child. What was a duo is now a trio. The key adjustment in this stage is to take on the roles of parents, in addition to their existing role as spouses. The husband relates to his wife not merely as his spouse, but also as the mother of his child, And vice versa. Parental roles and responsibilities with regards to care giving, discipline, education will now have to be ironed out. While significant portions of time and attention may now be given to the child, the couple will do well to continue spending pockets of quality time with each other to tend to their marital relationship.

For couples who do not have children, they may merge gradually from the pairing stage to the partnership stage.

The Partnership Stage

A couple transits into this stage when their children are grown up or have moved out of the household. Having spent the past many years focusing on parenting, they may have to now adjust to each other as a pair again. This is commonly known as the “empty nest” syndrome. Marital tensions that were once distracted by the tasks of parenting in the past may now surface. Especially so since the couple will now spend more time with each other. Growing together into their golden years, the couple can strengthen their partnership by pursuing hobbies, engaging in common activities and enjoying leisure time as a pair.  


Yeo, A. (1999). Partners in Life. Singapore: Armour Publishing.

Written by:                                                                                                            Justin Peter                                                                                                    Therapist                                                                                                          SACAC Counselling



Will I ever trust you again?

“A happy Marriage is the union of two forgivers” – Ruth Bell Graham

Three building blocks are the foundation of good relationships: trust, honesty, and compassion.

It is only when our partner has been unfaithful that we realise how fragile these building blocks can be.

The common belief is that affairs are about sex or intercourse, but with the introduction of the Internet, the definitions of affairs or infidelity become more complex. In fact, affairs are most often about secrecy, sexual attraction and sexual activities that violate the monogamous vows.

The affair might be a terrible crisis but the Chinese symbol of “Crisis” is made up of two words: “Danger” and “Opportunity”. If the couple is committed to dealing constructively with the affair and size on the Opportunity part of the crisis, their relationship will find a deeper meaning and grow stronger.

Few steps in working through the affair and towards recovery are useful to know:

1. The Discovered has to end the affair and cut all ties with the third party.

2. The Discovered needs to be transparent about his/her relationship with the third party by answering the Discoverer’s intense questioning. Defensiveness and shame will hinder the couple’s recovery process. The Discoverer’s intense questioning aims to clarify the reason(s) why the partner had been unfaithful. The Discovered needs to show empathy and compassion towards the Discoverer while answering the questions, however excessive details can be traumatising to the Discoverer. A word of caution to the Discoverer: focusing solely on the third party means failing to look closely at the couple’s own relationship.

Also to help rebuild the trust, the Discovered needs to offer full access to call records and messages on their digital devices.

3. The couple needs to uncover deeper motivations that had led to the path of the affair through insight and honest discussion.

The equation:

Problem + Poor communication + Temptation = Infidelity; highlights the necessity for both partners to learn new communication skills.

Through commitment and intense learning, the crisis of unfaithfulness will offer to both partners the opportunity to create a new durable partnership.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Parent-Teen Communication: Active Listening


Most of the parent-teen communication problems stem from their opposing parent and teen life development roles. The parents’ job is to insure the safety and welfare of their children, which imposes a certain amount of control. Teens’ job is, on the other hand to thrive to separate from their parents in order to determine their own identity. In this case, a healthy communication remains the best way in strengthening parent-teen relationship.

Active listening is a crucial ingredient to improving communication with your children. Your children will get the message that they are important enough to have your full attention. The process includes the following components, easier said than done, yet practice remains the only way to master it:

  • Your child makes a statement about something that she wants you to understand
  • You repeat the important points of what you heard her say starting with: “if I understood” and ending with: “Is that correct? Or “Am I right?”
  • Your child then gives you feedback as to whether or not you understood her correctly. If you did not understand what he said, make the statement again, with a bit more clarification and end with: “is that what you meant?” He will then once again reflect back to you what was heard. This back and forth process –during which you make NO judgment-, continues until your child acknowledges that you heard correctly what was said.

To put it all together, active listening will sound like this: “If I understand, you are sad because your friends have decided not to befriend you anymore and that breaks your heart. Am I right?”

If your teens agree that what you heard is what they said and they have asked for an answer, give one but refrain from fixing the problem (offer your help instead)

Learning to communicate in a manner that can be heard by your teens requires lots of practice (with some mistakes), patience and persistence. Lack of a healthy communication with your teens, on the other hand, will lead to an ongoing tension and platonic relationship in the family. It may be helpful to seek the support of a mental health professional if you experience frequent communication issues.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

The Revolving Doors of Friendship Abroad

Yana's 120417 blog

“If you think nothing is impossible, try slamming a revolving door”…

If you have lived in country other than your own for any period of time, you have probably experienced the transient nature of friendship abroad.

At any time, there is always someone arriving or leaving, it could be ourselves or others. The constant movement of people in our lives can feel very confusing, like endlessly going around in a revolving door.

The continuous experience of saying goodbye to friends and meeting new ones sometimes seems sad and overwhelming.  We wish we could close those fast moving doors… but of course, that is not possible!

Let’s look at some helpful thoughts for navigating the revolving doors of friendship:

  • Awareness and Openess. It is important to develop awareness about the nature of friendship abroad (constantly changing) and how we feel about it (so we can address our feelings).  Also, to start nurturing an attitude of openness, we might befriend people that in a different set of circumstances we might have never interacted with (eg. different cultures, age groups).
  • Connections and Values.  We might choose to start cultivating connections with people that relate to our different interests. We might also choose to connect with people with whom we share similar sets of life values. In either case, we become part of a community (that regularly changes its members).
  • Flow and Trust.  Two other key elements are: going with the flow and trusting the process. There might be instances where we would need to change our approach or look for help. We may feel completely alone despite all efforts. At that point, it is essential to continue the path and trust that it will lead us to more self knowledge and fullfilling relationships.

Joseph Campbell said that “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  Paradoxically, the constant change provide us an opportunity to stop, look at our life from a different perspective and let go of our preconceived plans and notions.

By developing awareness and openness, we progress in our path towards a more flowing and trusting behaviour.  By focusing on our life values, we develop profound connections that open doors to more adventures.

In summary, learning to navigate the revolving doors of friendship abroad helps us to develop pathways to new life possibilities.

Written by:                                                                                                         Yana Ricart                                                                                                             SAC Registered Counsellor (Singapore)                                                       SACAC Counselling


Love Hand Excuse Me I'm Sorry Sorry Heart Filler

Apologies are a common and often unavoidable part of our communication in our personal and professional lives and can serve to either repair or worsen the damage to an already hurting relationship. As I support people in improving their relationships, I often see them struggling with this area – the person giving the apology is frustrated that it wasn’t accepted even though it was sincere and the person receiving the apology feels hurt that it just didn’t feel honest or meaningful. So in the process of teaching effective communication, I also educate them about the essential elements of an effective apology. While every individual will have their personal style, it can be useful keep the below points in mind when apologising. This would apply across different personal and professional relationships but for simplicity I have written this with reference to couples.


The most important element of all communication is deep listening and it is essential in beginning the healing here as well so – pay attention, be present, be kind, be open and remember that the opposite person’s anger is likely stemming from hurt. Lower your barriers and allow yourself to be transparent and vulnerable so your sincerity can break through their defences and reach them. Let your partner express themselves fully and listen respectfully, attentively and without protest. Listen beyond the words being spoken to understand the feelings and needs being expressed.


Please take time to reflect on whether you genuinely are sorry, and if your answer is yes, they why so. This introspection will allow your apology to be authentic and heartfelt rather than a formality. Do not use this moment to settles old scores or be vengeful; to make your partner understand how you feel when they wrong you or to show them their part in the problem. Many times both parties contribute to a problem, but do not use your apology as a platform to discuss that – it will sully it and defeat the purpose. Also remember that you’re not doing your partner a favour by obliging them with an apology (for e.g. “I said sorry, what more do you want?”).  It’s not a power struggle and the respect you give is the respect you will likely receive. A sincere apology reflects you as being someone who has courage and humility enough to own up to a mistake and try to fix it.


Take full responsibility as you show remorse and admit that you messed up – this takes the blame off the injured party and can help them put their defensive shields down and be willing to listen. Avoid explaining the reasons behind your behaviour unless your partner asks you as it often gets expressed as “yes, but” which can sound like a justification for the mistake – in effect diminishing your sense of responsibility towards it. This can feel like you are shifting the blame onto others or to circumstances. If your partner does seek to understand why you did what you did, mention the factual reasons without defending yourself, remembering that irrespective of the reason, you’re still responsible for the hurt that was caused.


The word “sorry” is overused and can feel empty and meaningless as it doesn’t convey what you’re actually sorry for. So be specific – mention what was the mistake that you did and why you think it was wrong. Using ‘I statements’ can be helpful here.  Acknowledge and apologise for the damage and hurt that was caused by your actions and how it may have impacted your partner by way of practical inconveniences or emotional hurt and stress.


Reflect empathy – take a moment to place yourself in your partner’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Share how you would have felt if you were in their place and validate their feelings. This can engender feelings of being heard and understood and improve the sense of connection and closeness.


Ask how you can make it better – offer and be open to suggestions to repair some of the damage that was done. While things cannot usually be undone, be proactive in your efforts to make it better in any possible way. This further reflects your taking ownership of the issue, being engaged and available to help and caring about the impact this has had.


Giving assurance that the mistake will not be repeated in the future is essential, however it’s often a promise which cannot be fulfilled as there is no strategy. Simply having the honest intention of not repeating the mistake is insufficient as I’m pretty sure you did not intentionally want to commit this mistake in the first place. So you need to know and mention what steps you are going to take to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This makes your apology much more concrete and can help outline practical solutions and safeguards.


The most important element for the 2 points mentioned above – you must follow through, so be sure to only commit to what you think you would actually be able to deliver otherwise it can add to the injury. Commitments can either build or break trust depending on how consistently you follow through.


Please feel free request for it but remember that your partner doesn’t owe it to you. They may or may not be in the space to forgive you yet and that’s okay – they have the right to do so at their own pace. Just because you have offered a sincere apology, does not mean that it will instantly heal all wounds. Remembering that forgiveness is their prerogative is a sign of respect and empathy for their feelings and your patience will be a sign of your support, understanding and perseverance. So manage your expectations regarding the outcome of your apology to avoid disappointment or frustration.


Such moments can provide opportunity to build trust and reliability, express respect and care for your partner, show that you value the relationship more than your ego and that you are willing to work through the tough spots because your partner, their feelings and what you have together are important to you. It is also an opportunity to elicit feedback, understand each other better, refine conflict resolutions skills, set the precedent for honest authentic communication and grow in your relationship.

I hope the next time you apologise to someone, it’s an effective one!

Written By Mahima Gupta
M.A., MSPS, CRT, C.Ht.
Registered Clinical Psychologist

My Funny Valentine

In my years of practice as a marriage and family therapist, I have seen numerous clients for pre-marital counseling. When the time comes to discuss expectations of married life, more often than not,  “having sense of humor” would surface as one of the characteristics that engaged couple say they hope their partner has and maintains in a marriage. Researchers also showed that a good sense of humor is one of the most sought-out characteristics in a romantic partner (Cann, Calhoun, & Banks, 1997; Bressler & Balshine, 2006). Interestingly, however, I also have met many clients who cited that their partner’s sense of humour or the way they handle situations with humor causes issues in their relationship. So, is sense of humor useful in marital relationship?

Study about humour and its psychological functions has been a long interest in the field of psychology. Freud took a special interest in humour and wrote all about his thoughts in his book “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious”, first published in 1905. According to Freud, jokes and humour emerge when our conscious mind is allowed the expression of thoughts that society usually suppress or forbids. Similarly, Avner Ziv, a Professor at Tel Aviv University, explains that in addition to giving a way for taboo thoughts to have a more socially acceptable expressions, humour could also serve as a social adhesive, releasing social and political tension, provide defense against fear and anxiety and an opportunity for our intellectual mind to express slightly illogical thought in a safe environment.

In marriage life there will be challenges that come both from outside of the couple and from within. Considering that humour could contribute to relational maintenance (Haas & Stafford, 2005), has the potential to mitigate conflict (Bippus, 2003), and can generate playful and positive emotions (Aune & Wong, 2002), why in some couples does the use of humour not yield positive result?

The answer might be due to the different styles of humour. Rod Martin researched humour and compiled a Humor Styles Questionnaire in 2003.  He found that there are four styles of humour: affiliative, aggressive, self-enhancing humour and self-defeating humour. Affiliative humour involves telling jokes about things that everyone might find funny.  The goal is to use humour to bring people together, to find the humour in everyday life, to create a sense of togetherness, happiness, and well-being.  Aggressive humour involves put-downs or insults targeted toward individuals. Included in this type of humour are sarcasm, teasing, ridicule, or derisive action. Self-enhancing humour is being able to laugh at ourselves, such as making a joke when something bad has happened to us: trying to find the humour in everyday situations, and making ourselves the target of the humour in a good-natured way. This is related to a healthy approach to coping with stress. Self-defeating humour, on the other hand, is where we put ourselves down in an aggressive or “poor me” fashion. This sometimes used as a way to avoid attacks by making oneself the butt of jokes before others put us down.

Further research on humour in marital relationship reported by Saraglou, Lacour & Demeure in 2010 stated that marital instability and dissatisfaction among divorced people seems to stem from the fact that the couples: 1) Did not use positive, constructive humour enough; 2) use a lot of antisocial (aggressive and earthy) humour (especially men); 3) have different interpersonal warmth or hostility when using humour; 4) misperceive men-women differences in the use of positive humour; and 5) use a lot of self-disparaging humour (especially women).

In short, the positive effects of humour depend on which style (and how) humour is used in a relationship. The more positive styles of humour (affiliative and self-enhancing) contributed positively to the marital relation but the more negative styles of humour (aggressive and self-defeating) contributed negatively. For example, the effects of sarcasm might seem positive when the couple is applying it toward something outside of the relationship. This way, sarcasm might create “inside jokes” that bond the couple together “against the world”. But when used toward each other, its use could produce negative results because it has more potential of being misinterpreted and hurting the partner’s feelings.

Written by:                                                                                                        Natalia Indrasari                                                                                        Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist                                                SACAC Counselling