A lot of research has been done on the effects of divorce on children. It isn’t uncommon to see signs of depression, anxiety and behavioral problems in children the first six months to a year after divorce.
As many as one third of children from divorce families will continue to have problems related to their parent’s divorce five years post-divorce. Children fair better emotionally in low conflict divorces but since most divorce are high conflict by nature don’t be surprised if parental conflict, financial instability post-divorce or deterioration of the child/parent relationship leaves your child in need of help.
Most parents fail to understand or see that their child is in trouble emotionally due to the skewed belief that children are “resilient.” For this reason children with emotional problems stemming from parental divorce often go without the help they need to adjust to the changes brought about by divorce.
How To Know If Your Child Needs Therapy:
If any of the following problems occur during or after your divorce, your child probably needs the help of a trained child and adolescent therapist.
- Signs of depression,
- Anger and aggression,
- Breaking rules,
- Impulsive, risk taking behaviors,
- Eating disorders,
- Substance abuse,
- Anger toward a parent,
- An absent parent,
- High parental conflict,
- Unwillingness to participate in visitation,
- Unusual health problems
Your best gauge of whether or not your child needs therapy is what is normal and what is abnormal behavior in your child. If your mild mannered child becomes angry and begins to act out, the reason could be stress due to their parent’s divorce. As the parent it is your job to not make excuses for changes in behaviors and habits and take seriously whether or not your child needs help dealing with childhood stress.
As parents we want to believe that we can give our children the support they need. It is easy to dismiss the idea of therapy in favor of the belief that no one knows how to provide the support we, as parents can provide.
The value in therapy is this; a therapist can offer you an unbiased opinion on whether or not your child is having issues due to the divorce. A therapist is an objective third party with no emotional attachment and at times, that is exactly what a child needs. Someone to talk to who has nothing at stake other than listening to and validating the needs of a child.
What Are The Benefits of Therapy For Your Child?
If you are smart enough to seek help for your child, therapy will:
- Teach your child to be proactive when seeking solutions to problems,
- Teach your child to take preventive steps when dealing with stressful situations,
- Give your child access to a different perspective of what is going on in their life
I must add that therapy will not work if your child is not interested and willing to participate. A child will only benefit if they want to talk out their problems with a third party. If you feel your child needs therapy but the child is resistant to the idea of therapy I suggest you, as a parent get into therapy. Learning to cope with and negotiate your own emotional issues puts you in a better position when it comes to helping a troubled child who is resistant to the idea of therapy.
If you are truly concerned don’t forget to reach out to sources other than a trained therapist. Your child’s school has resources that can be invaluable to him/her during and after the divorce. Check with your child’s school counselor to see if there are any groups set up for children of divorce. Such groups are a valuable resource since it helps children know they are not alone, that others share their experiences and understand their concerns.
Whatever route you take, I highly suggest you take proactive steps to help your child by either seeing a therapist, taking advantage of school programs or available community agencies.