Divorce effects children differently. Some children are able to cope fairly well with their parent’s separation, especially if they are parting ways amicably. Highly contested matters, on the other hand, can be detrimental to a child’s well-being and have a long lasting impact. In a situation such as this, parents should give serious consideration to therapy. But how can a parent tell if therapy is truly the right course of action for their child?
Divorce’s Impact on Kids
A number of studies have been conducted to evaluate the short- and long-term effect that divorce has on children. Researchers sought to understand the mental, emotional, and physical impact children experience during their parent’s divorce. What they found, however, proves that divorce can be positive and negative, depending on the child. Their findings were not black or white.
Children whose parents are able to communicate and co-parent successfully had a more positive divorce experience than those whose parents bickered and put them in the middle of their arguments. The individual personalities of children, along with the environments in which they were raised, also play a prominent role in how divorce will affect them. Children who have difficulties adapting to change, come from homes where there is a history of abuse, or are special needs may have a harder time coping with divorce.
Behavioral Changes and Other Signs
Short term behavioral changes, such as shock, anger, confusion, and sadness, are expected upon learning of the divorce, because the child’s life is being uprooted. Divorce is major life change, and it will take time before a child can learn to cope. That being said, long term changes in behavior or personality should act as a red flag for parents.
Some personality and behavior changes to pay attention to include, but are not limited to:
- Anger, aggression, or signs of depression
- Rule breaking or risk taking behaviors
- Substance abuse or developing eating disorders
- Refusal to visit with non-custodial parent
- Decline in academic achievement
- Loss of friendships or unwillingness to participate in social or extracurricular activities
Generally speaking, these behaviors will develop and persist continually for several weeks. Just as adults will have “off-days” and feel low, so will children. It is human nature to experience negative emotions during a drastic life change, like divorce. Parents need to discuss the idea of therapy when their child experiences troublesome emotional and personality changes for extended periods of time.
The Benefits of Therapy
The benefits of therapy for a child going through divorce are profound. During their therapeutic sessions, children will gain insight into the situation and learn how to better process their emotions. The benefits of therapy are far reaching and can extend far into adulthood. Regular visits with a therapist will teach children how to deal with stress and ways diffuse difficult situations. Divorce can be a traumatic upheaval in a child’s life, and a therapist or psychiatrist will be able to help the child process the change.
It is important to note that therapy will not be successful if the child is unwilling to participate. If this happens, some professionals will ask both parents attend sessions with their child. Some children have a hard time getting comfortable with strangers, and may be afraid to open up. If this is the case, the child may feel more relaxed and willing to participate if they speak with a school therapist. Parents can also research local organizations that focus on group therapy for children of divorce.
The Role of a Therapist
A child therapist is a neutral third party to the divorce action, and in no way can take one parent’s side over the other. A therapist can provide parents with general information about their child, their child’s progress, and exercises to do at home to help the child work through their animosity or depression. Outside of this, it is unethical for a therapist to disclose what is discussed during sessions.
Children are intuitive, and will often pick up on hostility between their parents. Divorce can be a good thing, especially with the help of a therapist to help the child develop coping strategies. By allowing the therapist to work within their neutral roll, parents can ensure that their child thrives during divorce.
Focus on Children
The best way to help a child cope with, and overcome, a divorce is to make their well-being a top priority. To do this, it is recommended that all couples proceeding with a divorce retain separate attorneys to advocate on their behalf throughout the action. The family law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. specializes in complex matrimonial actions and represents clients throughout the New York City Area. Brian and his team work tirelessly to negotiate settlements and litigate cases, so their clients can focus on being the best parents possible. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call 718-875-7584, today!