Just like any traumatic life event, a divorce can cause serious problems for children.
Research shows that divorce poses serious physical and emotional risks for children that can cause problems well into adulthood. It’s common for children of divorce to experience anger, anxiety, and feelings of betrayal.
Hopefully, you and your ex are mature enough to keep their best interests in mind by shielding them from your disagreements. Even so, this can still be a rough transition and it might be wise to enlist the help of a professional as they switch to this new living arrangement.
Keep in mind that it’s not abnormal for children to show signs of stress as they’re making this adjustment. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need counseling. In fact, one study found that it is common for adolescents to go through some initial struggles during their parents’ divorce before stabilizing and returning to their normal selves.
However, as a parent you need to be especially attentive to your child’s behaviors and needs during this time. If trouble or abnormal behavior persist, it might be beneficial for your child to speak with a counselor or therapist.
What are the signs?
There are some general clues to be on the lookout for when trying to decide whether your child needs therapy.
If you notice unusual behavior that persists for more than a couple weeks, it is a sign that your child might need help. You should also be concerned if these symptoms interfere with their normal functioning, such as their appetite or ability to complete homework assignments on time.
There are a number of more specific symptoms keep your eye out for such as social withdrawal, increased sleepiness, and persistent mood swings.
Talk to teachers and other caregivers
Although you don’t want to disclose all the details of your personal life, it is a good idea to let your child’s teachers know you’re going through a divorce. Ask them to be on the lookout for any potential problems.
Are they struggling with assignments? How are they interacting with other classmates? Do they keep to themselves more than usual?
You can also ask for help from other caregivers, such as relatives or parents of your child’s friends, to help monitor the situation. Use all of this information to help you determine the best course of action.
It also might be worth discussing your concerns with your child’s doctor to make sure the problems are not medically related.
Finding a therapist
Once you determine your child needs the assistance of a therapist, your next step is finding a therapist that is the best fit for your child.
Not only do you need to find a clinician who is educated, qualified, and has experience working with children, but you need to find someone who your child is comfortable talking to.
Consider asking your doctor for a referral as most doctors have working relationships with mental health specialists. You can also ask friends and family members and even your divorce attorney if they’re familiar with any local therapists.
Before you commit to regular visits, try to schedule an initial consultation so the therapist can sit down with your child and you can get a feel for their approach.