Children’s health is always a priority and when it comes to divorce, kids need to get the best available treatment. Many counseling offices offer divorce counseling for kids and have professionals that know how to help them, but not all children from divorcing parents need a therapist.
For younger children, it is harder to understand the meaning of divorce. Explaining to them will be harder, but accepting the inevitable for them will be easier. Older children and teenagers might have real problems during and after the divorce and sometimes they need help from a therapist. Certain changes in their behavior are normal and are not a reason to panic, but if some of it is troubling for them or the surrounding, they should see a therapist.
What is troubling behavior?
For younger children, it is eating disorders, nightmares, or difficulty in falling asleep. Babies and toddlers don’t really understand what is going on with their parents, but changing their pattern can cause trouble. It is important to know that changes in the family will make changes in the children’s behavior too.
Older children and teenagers understand better what a divorce means and what are its consequences on them and the family. Sudden use of alcohol or drugs, hypersexuality, stealing, excessive lying, aggressiveness all these are signs of troubling behavior in older children and teenagers. These types of changes should be taken very seriously and children must visit counseling in order to prevent bigger problems.
A little less critical but also serious can be obsessive or compulsive behavior, low self-esteem, being silent too often, difficulty concentrating and bad memory, insomnia, and etc.
When to wait and when to act?
Therapists say that children’s therapy can be counterproductive, if it is forced. During or after the divorce kids should get some time to cope with the new situation. Just like grown-ups, but with more attention
If you have small children, you should probably NOT take them to counseling if they have some of the already mentioned change in behavior. Crying, asking for the other parent, trouble falling asleep, not eating well are all normal changes, but, if nothing goes back to normal after a few weeks, that means that the child is having trouble accepting their parent’s divorce and it’s time to see the therapist.
It is also time for divorce counseling for kids if the child refuses to eat and drink liquids, or starts arguing with their parents for no reason, or does things like running away and hiding, becomes aggressive, or develops insomnia.
Older children also show emotions and change their everyday activities. For them, recovering from their parent’s divorce can take about the same time as the rest of the adult family. Normal change in behavior means showing sympathy, offering help, expressing their feelings on the situation and talking about the other parent more often.
It is time to go counseling immediately when children’s behavior becomes a problem for themselves and the family. Refusing to accept the divorce can be resolved through conversation, but sometimes a professional help is needed. Children often become silent, withdraw into themselves and avoid people, all these are clear signs of a possible depression. Some will try to fill the void of their home by finding pleasure and joy in unhealthy or life threatening habits. Drugs, heavy drinking, stealing, fighting, or any type of behavior that is not usual with them but is typical for children coping with their parent’s divorce.
Never underestimate or take these actions for granted because very often they end in the worst possible scenario.