Rising divorce rate: Stepsiblings a support system, says teen

Rising divorce rate: Stepsiblings a support system, says teen
Kamilla Tasha Kummah (seated, right), 18, says she and her siblings are close to their half-brother and stepsisters. Pictured here are (clockwise from centre) her half-brother Tinohan Kummah, eight, stepsister Avril Sindhu, 19, brother Zackri Kummah, 22, sister Manika Kummah, 20 (seated, left), brother Adnand Kummah, 26, and stepsister Sabrina Xavier, 22. Photo:ST

Eight years on, she can still recall how she and her three older siblings were caught in between her divorced parents in court.

"We didn't know who to sit with. We didn't want to take sides, so we sat by ourselves in between them," said Kamilla Tasha Kummah, now 18 and known to friends as Katy.

And then came what she said is the hardest part - seeing one parent "bash the other parent".

"My dad said that my mum didn't have enough money to cook 'real food' for us, that she'd usually cook chicken nuggets and Maggi mee. But we were the ones that wanted the nuggets."

On the other side, her mother said Katy's father had remarried and should focus on caring for that family - a family she did not even know existed. "I was, like, 'Huh, he has another family? Since when? Why didn't I know?'"

See also: Mandate counselling for children of divorce

Her parents had divorced when she was just a year old, but they went to court again when she was 10, when her mother wanted to get maintenance payments from her father. The court case was settled about two years later.

Soon after that case, Katy met her stepfamily.

Now, she and her siblings are close to their half-brother and two stepsisters from her stepmother's previous marriage. Except for her half-brother who is eight, the rest are aged 18 to 26.

"I think one thing that the adults did correctly was introducing us to one another. I know that for some other families, they don't do this because they're afraid of comparisons," she said.

It was also helpful that her mother prepared her mentally before her first meeting with the stepfamily, who were more well-to-do and lived in a condominium, she said.

"She tried to prep us and tell us not to be too shocked."

About six years on, even though they may not be living under the same roof, most of them are working together in a restaurant that her father owns. They have been doing so for the past four months.

She has even met the family of her two stepsisters' biological father - in other words, their other stepfamily. "That's how close we are. I think all of us act as a support system for one another," she said.

See also: Ex-spouses must learn to co-parent

Katy said the parents in both families are fine with this arrangement, as they see the children finding support and friendship in one another.

"We try not to take this divorce too personally. It's the parents' fault; we shouldn't get involved."

Katy said she has come out stronger, thanks also to her mother, who often tells her to "see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty".

"I think my siblings and I were all slightly affected by it, but we try not to think about it too much. My mum told us not to dwell on things that have already happened.

"We just shake it off."

This article was first published on July 26, 2015.
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