When parents split, he felt betrayed yet relieved

"(Kids) can become rebellious, fall into depression or become introverted, depending on the child." - Counsellor John Vasavan

When Kyle was 13, and his mother divorced his father, he felt a strange mix of abandonment, betrayal and relief.

"I felt relieved because it was simply a matter of time before she left," he explains.

The articulate man, who asked that we do not use his real name, says his father was difficult to live with, kept secrets from his mother and occasionally hit her.

His mother had tried to leave his father when Kyle was just four years old, but she had a change of heart. He had always felt that was a mistake, Kyle says.

The final separation was a gradual process, which included his parents living apart for a few years before the divorce was final.

When it happened, however, Kyle struggled with feelings of resentment as his mother did not fight for custody of him and his two younger siblings.

This meant that he was left in the care of his father, with whom he did not get along.

"(His mother) explained that she did not want to take us away from my father because it would absolutely ruin him. She said that I would understand when I grew older."

As a teenager, the explanation seemed insufficient to Kyle. Their relationship was so strained that they did not even exchange greetings.

"I did not really care about what happened to my dad. I simply wanted out. Looking back, I do see her point of view now,' he says.

When children are left in the care of a parent they do not have a good relationship with, they sometimes develop attachment issues, says counsellor John Vasavan.

"This may manifest itself in the child seeking affection from authority figures of the same gender as the absent parent," he states.

Divorce has the most impact on children aged seven and above, he adds. "That is when they start understanding situations around them, and realising the absence of one parent.

"They can become rebellious, fall into depression or become introverted, depending on the child," he says.

For Kyle, his parents' testy relationship made him painfully aware of his father's flaws.

"I consciously check myself to make sure that I don't follow in his footsteps," he says.

But the one hardest hit by the split was his youngest brother, who was only six when his parents separated.

"I was independent from a young age, but he was rather sheltered and my mother doted on him.

"When she left, it was hard for him to adjust and he often cried," he adds.

When Kyle's mother remarried, he felt happy for her, he says this about his stepfather: "He is a good man. I don't know him at all but I trust him."

These days, Kyle's relationship with his mother is "better than ever". The two keep in contact regularly.

His parents are also on speaking terms.

"I would say I don't really feel any more resentment towards them," he adds.

This article was first published on July 27, 2014.
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