Most parents understand that their children will struggle to some degree after a divorce. It can be hard for kids to accept the reality of the end of their parents' marriage. Some may struggle with their sense of self or with the nature of the relationships with their individual parents in the wake of a divorce.
Some children and teenagers have a harder time than others. They may start to act out in a variety of ways. From breaking house rules to isolating themselves from friends and family, some minors witnessing a divorce can engage in damaging and unhealthy behavior. As a parent, you want to do what is right for your child. However, you can't stay in a miserable, unhealthy marriage just because divorce upsets your kids.
Instead, you need to find a way to help your children deal with the realities of divorce with as little emotional trauma as possible. Knowing when professional help is necessary can help you make informed decisions about your children's psychological and social needs during and after divorce.
Children exhibiting a number of negative symptoms may require help
The two most obvious and overt emotional responses to a divorce are sadness and anger. Expressed appropriately and experienced in small doses, both emotions are natural and healthy for children grieving the end of their parents' marriage. However, if either of these emotions begins to dominate the child's daily life, that can be a sign that they are struggling to cope.
Formerly happy, relatable children who become withdrawn, angry, aggressive or depressive likely need to talk about what they are going through. In some cases, just a few therapy sessions to discuss the situation and realize that their feelings are normal can suffice. Other times, divorce brings up feelings of inadequacy or abandonment that children require extensive help to process.
Excessive emotions aren't the only warning signs to watch for. Sudden changes in dress or behavior, changes in social circles, issues with dating or promiscuity, drops in grades or skipping school are also warning signs of a child struggling to cope with divorce.
There shouldn't be any stigma associated with getting therapy
One of the biggest mistakes that parents can make when a child needs counseling is to make the therapy seem like a punishment. Don't tell your child that they did something wrong, and now they have to go to therapy. Instead, let them know that you want to help them develop the tools they need to move on from the divorce and that therapy is the first step in that process.
Remember that your child may still feel embarrassed about seeking counseling. Do not bring up the topic with peers, friends or even extended family members unless the child addresses the issue first. As a parent, you should also remember that your child needing counseling doesn't make you a failure. Instead, it makes you a proactive parent who prioritizes the mental health of the children you love.