How divorce affects children of divorce is well documented. Although the amount of parental conflict kids are exposed to is more harmful than the actual event of divorce, the fact is that dealing with divorce is difficult. Your kids need your support now more than ever.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help offset the effects of divorce on children, but you only have so much power. Depending on how your kids react, it might be worth enlisting the help of a counselor or therapist to aid in their divorce recovery.It might be worth enlisting the help of a counselor or therapist to aid in their divorce recovery. Click To Tweet
Does your child need therapy?
Even an amicable divorce involves a degree of upheaval for a child. As they are adjusting to their new living arrangement, a child will need to work through some complicated emotions. It is natural for kids to struggle a bit as they are dealing with divorce, and just because they are having some rough days here and there does not necessarily mean they need therapy.
So how do you know if your child’s issues are likely to resolve over time or if you need outside help? Here are some general clues you can look for:
- Persistent problems with eating or sleeping.
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anger or other negative emotions.
- Excessive difficulties with separation from you or their mother.
- Trouble concentrating on schoolwork or other tasks.
- Constant lashing out.
- Your child’s symptoms persist for several weeks.
- Your child’s symptoms interfere with their normal day-to-day activities.
- Other close friends or family members have expressed concern over your child’s behavior.
It is a good idea to talk with your ex and see if you can come to an agreement as to whether or not your child would benefit from therapy. If you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution and get a consultation. If your child’s reaction is normal and he or she does not need therapy, a well-trained clinician should be able to tell you.
Finding a child therapist
Once you determine your child could benefit from therapy, you must go about finding a therapist who is a good fit. This is an intimidating and unfamiliar process for many parents as they do not want to turn to just anyone for help. To really help your child as they are coping with your divorce, you will want to find a therapist who creates a safe and healing environment.
There are many different types of therapy and figuring out which one is right for your child can be overwhelming when this is all new to you. Understanding what all the various PhDs, PsyDs, MDs, MSs, and MSWs mean is daunting, but WebMD has a helpful list of definitions of all the different professional labels you are likely to see.
Michael Ungar, Ph.D., writes on Psychology Today that as long as the approach has been researched or has abundant practice-based evidence, then your focus should be on the individual therapist and how they interact with your child rather than the type of therapy they employ.
Websites like Psychology Today and GoodTherapy.org provide online directories of child and adolescent therapists. You can use these listings to create a shortlist of licensed child therapists in your area who might be able to help.
It is also a good idea to ask people who you trust for referrals. If you have any close friends who have kids and have gone through divorce, check and see if their children ever saw a therapist and how the experience went for them.
You can also ask your divorce attorney for a recommendation. If your divorce lawyer focuses strictly on family law and fathers’ rights, then they likely have established working relationships with an array of licensed psychologists, counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals who you can trust to keep your children’s best interest in mind. This is just another reason why it is critical to hire a trusted divorce attorney for men who looks out for what is best for your family.
What to expect from child therapy
As a parent, it is natural to have concerns about your role in the counseling process. Every situation is different and your role will vary based on both the age of your child and the type of therapist they are seeing, but here is a general guideline of what you can expect:
Preschool, elementary school: At this age, your participation is critical. The therapist will likely need a report on your child’s behavior between sessions and you will probably be expected to learn skills to help your child through therapy.
Preteen, middle school: Parental involvement is still important in this age group, but there is more confidentiality between the therapist and child. This is why it is important to find a therapist who can build a foundation of trust with you and your child. The majority of session will likely be spent with the therapist and child alone, but the therapist will still likely meet with the parents frequently to discuss your child’s progress and address any concerns.
Teen, high school: A parent’s involvement in therapy is much less once their child reaches their teen years. This is a phase of life in which the child begins to transition to an adult, so learning to work out their problems and come up with their own solutions is an important part of their growth. Although your child will have much more independence at this stage, it is still important for you to stay engaged and keep the therapist updated on any relevant developments in your child’s life.
Mental health is typically framed as an issue that affects adults, but it is extremely pertinent to children of divorce. Unfortunately, it is common for disagreements between parents to erupt when trying to determine the best way to help a child coping with divorce. In those instances, it is a good idea to consult with your divorce attorney to ensure that you act appropriately while keeping your child’s well-being the top priority.