Last week we discussed the importance of men seeking professional help to aide in coping with divorce. Children usually aren't overlooked when their parents are in the midst of the divorce process, but it is possible to not recognize telltale signs that they may need to see a therapist to help sort through their feelings regarding such a life changing event.
It is completely normal for a child to have feelings of depression, anxiety or fear during the divorce process. Some may cry, others may act out and throw tantrums, and some may shut down and become distant. These are all completely normal and do not necessarily indicate a need for therapy, however, if these symptoms and behavioral changes persist consistently for longer than a couple of weeks, you may want to consider consulting a licensed and educated professional. Other indicators that your child might benefit from seeing a therapist are:
- Your child's symptoms not only interfere with their everyday life, but they negatively impact the way your family functions.
- Your normally outgoing and smart child is now quiet and not participating in school. Instead of colorful and vibrant stories at the dinner table, they tend to not look up from their plate and respond with a one answer when asked about their day.
- Family members and friends have expressed concern over your child's well-being.
- Sometimes, it takes an outsiders point of view to really get the big picture when it comes to your children and divorce. It's possible that your child's symptoms have been gradual and you haven't noticed the severity of them, but a loved one will be able to recognize worrisome behaviors.
- You often find yourself feeling angry or irritated towards your child.
- It can be very difficult, both emotionally and mentally, to handle a divorce. These hardships can only be intensified if your child is having trouble coping with the fact that their parents are no longer together. Your child lashing out over everyday occurrences can leave you feeling a sense of anger or annoyance towards your child.
- Your child starts to abuse alcohol or drugs.
This behavior change appears in teenagers and not their younger siblings. You must discuss confront your teen immediately if you notice that they are coming home after curfew, smell of alcohol, or you find drugs. You may wish to include your spouse in this conversation, as substance abuse can be dangerous and damaging.
As stated previously, it is normal for a child's personality and behavior to change during their parent's divorce. This is completely healthy and essential to their coping. A child may start to blame themselves for the divorce, and it is important to communicate that they are not the reason mom and dad are splitting up. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, and address any negativity or anxiety that they may feel. Having an open, encouraging and supportive dialogue may prevent your child from needing to see a therapist.
Sometimes one spouse may be opposed to their children seeking therapy because they think that the other parent is being overcautious or deflecting their feelings onto the child. While this has the possibility to be true, if the concerned parent is genuinely worried about their child's wellbeing, the other parent should put their skepticism aside and agree to therapy on a trial basis. The divorcing couple can make arrangements for their child to meet privately with a non-biased therapist where he or she can discuss how the divorce is affecting them. The therapist should be able to determine if additional sessions are needed after the first couple of meetings.
Therapy, at any age, should not be looked down upon during divorce. Certain people may have trouble adjusting to such a monumental and life changing event. Whether it is for children, or their parents, therapy can help the affected individual thrive during and after divorce.