A 15-year-old girl uses her personal experience in a class project to open a discussion on a still-taboo topic
Nguyet Duc is currently studying at EISHCMC. At the end of the 10th grade, she will finish her International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP), in which all students must complete a year-long assignment called the Personal Project. Each student has the opportunity to choose any topic that evokes their interest, as long as it fulfills certain requirements and provides a service to the community. A supervisor is also assigned to each student to support them through this learning experience. Nguyet Duc chose to work on the impacts of divorce on children.
Because of a general lack of awareness and as a child suffering from divorced parents myself, I chose ‘divorce’ as the topic for my year-long Personal Project assignment for EUROPEAN International School Ho Chi Minh City.
Our society is continuously opening up to concepts and actions previously regarded as taboos, and one of them is divorce. In 2000, there were a reported 51,361 divorce cases in Vietnam, five years later the number increased to 65,929, and in 2010 it nearly doubled to 126,325.
Divorce does not only affect the couple, it also has a big impact on their children. Everyone, regardless of their age, is still a ‘child’ to their parents. Whether they’re adults, teenagers or infants, they will be affected, one way or another, by their parents’ divorce. But young children are even more vulnerable to the abrupt change and some may never recover from these the emotional scars.
Children are very dependent on familial love and care. Therefore, when their parents drift apart, they will start to become anxious about all the unknowns ahead of them. They may feel abandoned by their parents, and eventually they will wonder whether their parents will leave them too. All of a sudden, their perfect idea of “happily ever after” shatters, and worse, it’s shattered by those they treasure the most. Soon they realize that life is far different from their favorite fairy tales and stories, and they may burden themselves in the lingering thought that relationships can end and people will leave.
The blow of reality at such a young age is known to develop psychological issues. It is often found that children of divorced parents will face attachment problems as they grow older. They are more likely to feel insecure in relationships, in comparison to those that are not from divorced families. Many also endure hopelessness, crying spells and insomnia. Even when they step into adulthood, they may still feel agitated or uncomfortable when left alone due to separation anxieties. Despite millions of children whose heartstrings are being tugged at, the consequences of divorce are evaded, or simply shrugged off, by Vietnamese society.
The emotions a child affected by divorce go through are unveiled through the two dresses I created. I feel that this issue is prevalent in Vietnam and is occurring even more frequently now. I strongly wish it would be more regularly spoken about and understood in a more profound way.
Dress #1 has many brightly-colored flowers and a large blank space in the middle. The vivid flower prints on the dress symbolizes the boundless, vibrant and carefree life of a child who is filled with buoyancy and hopefulness, while the white canvas implies their purity and innocence. This dress is used to picture the soul of a young child in the pre-divorce stage.
In contrast to the flowers in the Dress#1, Dress #2’s flowers are black and their shapes are created by formless lines. Furthermore, purple and black were chosen to evoke confusion and melancholy. I added a black ruffle drooping down on the shoulder as an imagery of anxiety and sadness weaving into their lives as they lock away their little, fragile hearts. However, despite its gloominess, the presence of flowers represents a spark of hope that will never be out of sight.
Divorces are best avoided, but if it is inevitable, there is still an opportunity for the child to flourish, and the solution is love and communication. By making the child feel the love they deserve, and continuing their permanent relationship with both parents, they most likely won’t have to go through the aforementioned emotional disruptions. Supporting the child through these tough times together will make a huge difference in their lives.
Divorce can be seen as a solution for parents during conflict, but they may not have realized that by taking this quick route, it could damage their child’s future. Couples that are headed for divorce can recover, and some can find better marriages than before. Parents should closely consider whether a divorce is worth it before signing the papers, as they could also be signing away the joyousness of their child’s life.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY NGUYET DUC