Benefits of Therapy for Children During and After Divorce
Divorce is undoubtedly challenging on the spouses, there’s no question about that. But, divorce can be just as devastating for children. During and after a divorce, it’s essential to prioritize children’s mental and emotional well-being and therapy can help you accomplish this goal. Here are a few things to think about while you consider whether therapy is something you should pursue for your children.
1. Why and How Does Therapy Help?
Divorce frequently leaves children feeling confused, anxious, and overwhelmed, even if they don’t verbalize those feelings. This is where therapy can be incredibly beneficial. A therapist can help children navigate the challenges of divorce by providing them with a safe and non-judgmental space to express their feelings and emotions. A therapist can also give children the tools (sometimes the words) to express how they feel to their parents so their parents can better understand what they’re going through. They can also teach children coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills to help them deal with the changes and uncertainty that come with divorce.
Additionally, therapy can help children better understand the divorce process and what to expect. Children may have many questions about the separation of their parents, but children often feel like they can’t go to their divorcing parents with these questions. In fact, sometimes the Court specifically orders the parents to not talk to the children about the divorce. A therapist can help kids get the answers they need in a way that is age-appropriate and easy to understand. This can help children feel more in control and less anxious about what’s happening in their lives.
2. How can Parents Support Children’s Mental Health with Therapy?
After a divorce, it’s not uncommon for children to experience a range of negative emotions, including sadness, anger, and depression. As stated above, these emotions can be overwhelming and challenging to manage, and these can be emotions that emotionally intelligent children try to hide from their parents. So, a parent can support their children’s emotional health by ensuring they have someone to talk to. Parents shouldn’t force their children to talk to them about the divorce, even though that can be tempting. Children know that divorce is hard for their parents too, so some children will bury their own feelings because they don’t want to add more to the “emotional plate” of their parents—they don’t want their parents to have to bear both the parent’s and the child’s emotional burdens. A therapist can help children process these emotions, identify their triggers, teach children how to carry this emotional burden, be an ear the children can talk to, and develop healthy coping strategies to manage their feelings in a constructive way.
Another thing parents can do to support children in their mental-health-journey through divorce is not pry into their therapy sessions. We have had lots of cases where parents refuse to allow the child to meet with the therapist alone and insist on being present. If you don’t trust your child’s therapist to have one-on-one conversations with your child without you in the room then you need a new therapist. Child therapists are specifically trained for this kind of thing and your presence in the room is going to alter the dynamics of the conversation. Find a good therapist, let the therapist do their job with your children, and don’t pry the contents of the child-therapist discussion out of your child after the session.
3. How Can Therapy Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships?
Therapist can help parents understand the challenges their children are facing and provide guidance on how to support them. To this end, parents should have occasional communication with the therapist (without being annoying and overburdensome), asking the therapist three essential questions: (1) how is my child doing in therapy; (2) is there anything I should be worried about; (3) is there anything I can do to help.
Some parents may become offended at therapist’s recommendations. While every professional deserves some level of scrutiny, remember that a therapist’s job is not to protect the parent or the parent’s feelings but to help the child. So, a therapist may make recommendations regarding how a parent may change in their communication style or tactics, what can be changed in the home, or what can be done to better connect with their children and improve their relationship. If such recommendations are given, take them into serious consideration.
Parents may find that the coparenting relationship with the ex-spouse is causing harm to the child. A therapist can make suggestions for how to insulate the child from this kind of conflict, propose alternative methods of problem-solving as it relates to a particular child, and help the parents ensure their children’s well-being is always the top priority.
Divorce is a difficult and emotional time for everyone involved, especially children. However, seeking therapy for children during and after divorce can have a profound and positive impact on their mental health and emotional well-being. Through therapy, children can learn to navigate the challenges of divorce, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and strengthen their relationships with their parents. If you’re going through a divorce or know someone who is, consider the benefits of therapy for children and take steps to prioritize their mental and emotional well-being.