As discussed previously, divorce effects all children differently. Some will be able to cope with the change on their own, while others will benefit from having regular appointments with a therapist who specializes in child therapy. If your child falls into the latter category, introducing the idea of therapy to them may require special care.
Gauge Your Child’s Reaction
Telling your child that they are going to start seeing a therapist is tricky. Each child will react differently, with some welcoming the idea and feeling relieved that they will have finally have a healthy outlet for their emotions. Alternatively, some children may act out, get angry, and argue with you. Some children will feel incredibly guilty and hurt that you want them to seek professional mental help. They may think that they are being forced to see a therapist because they are damaged or broken. This negativity will often make a child’s insecurities surrounding their parent’s divorce even stronger.
Timing is Everything
Timing is everything when it comes to introducing the idea of therapy to a child. Think back to when you told your child about your divorce, and try to recreate the same calm setting. Both parents should be present, if possible, and portray a united front. It is not recommended that you do it during a time of stress, such as after a fight or disagreement. Your child’s judgment and reasoning can become clouded during an argument, and it is likely they will view therapy as a punishment. Therapy is an extremely beneficial experience, and it is important to assure your child that this is for their own good and will help them come to terms with the divorce.
Understanding and Empathy
It is always recommended that parents be empathetic towards their child and his or her feelings during divorce. This especially rings true if you and your spouse agree that sending your child to therapy is in their best interest. Let your child know that their feelings and concerns are completely valid, and that you want figure out a way for them to work through their issues surrounding the separation.
At Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C., we firmly believe that a successful divorce is a child centered one. Putting your children’s needs before your own, especially when it comes to their mental health, is critical to helping them cope with divorce. Supporting your children, and encouraging them to attend therapy sessions, is incredibly important.
Divorce is a major life change, and it is hard for some children to cope with their new lifestyle. Let your child know that you understand how hard this must be for them, and that you want to do everything you can to help them come to terms with the divorce. Therapy provides a safe haven for children to vent their concerns and negative emotions without the fear of being judged or hurting one parent’s feelings.
It is likely that both adolescents and teens will feel anxiety over having to speak about personal issues and feelings with a stranger. This will make them hesitant, or even unwilling, to attend therapy. They may worry that what is discussed in therapy won’t be confidential, or that the therapist will punish them for feeling a certain way.
It may take your child a few sessions to feel comfortable enough to open up to their therapist. This is okay and completely normal. However, if you get the feeling that your child is still nervous, or struggling with the concept, you and your ex-spouse will need to intervene. Try calmly approaching your child, and ask why they don’t feel complacent in therapy. There is a good chance that they just don’t feel comfortable with their current therapist. If this is the case, look for someone else.
Being supportive is a main component of introducing the idea of therapy to your child. You can show support by encouraging your child, asking them how their session went (you cannot ask for specific details!), or even offer to attend family therapy meetings. Telling your child how proud you are of them for participating in sessions will make them happy, and in turn, will make them more willing to attend in the future.
Depression, anxiety, and anger issues will manifest if left untreated and can effect children well into adulthood. They can have a hard time focusing, developing and maintaining relationships, and may even face physical health issues. Divorce is hard for children, but it doesn’t have to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Get your child the help they need, so they can have a happy and successful future.
For more information on divorce and child custody matters in New York State, contact Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C.