It’s common to visit a therapist after going through a divorce — it’s a life-altering period of time, after all. You have a lot on your plate and it’s easy to get bogged down with your emotions, but you also have to think about what your kids are going through. Even though you know what went on behind closed doors leading up to the split, your children likely don’t, making this a confusing time for them.
Consistency is key when it comes to co-parenting. This takes practice as you and your now estranged partner have to learn what works best for everyone and simultaneously adapt to your new life circumstances. One way to ensure at least some consistency is to attend therapy. The idea of therapy may be off-putting to some, which is why it’s important for you and your ex-spouse to normalize the idea of therapy with your child, both for them and for yourself. It helps to have open conversations with your kids about the benefits of therapy to help get rid of any negative stigmas they may have about getting help.
Effects of Divorce on Children
Kids are impressionable, so don’t fight in front of them–keep them out of the thick of it and don’t make them pick sides. Ideally, both parents will still be in the child’s life, so keep the bickering between yourselves and put on a brave face for the kid’s sake. According to a recent study supported by The National Institute of Mental Health, children who see each parent at least 35% of the time have healthier relationships with both parents and do better academically than those who spend all their time with one parent and have “visits” with the other.
When you and your partner separate, your kids get no say in what happens, and the lack of control may be stressful for them. Keep in mind that some kids may take it harder than others depending on their age and how much they’ve been involved. A young child may show different signs than a teenager, but a child of any age with divorced parents has a higher risk of mental health and behavioral issues.
Signs Your Child Should See a Therapist
If your child breaks a bone, you bring them to the hospital right away. But what about when your child is undergoing emotional pain?
Just like you and me, children are complex individuals with contrasting emotions. Your child’s mental health is just as important as your own, so keep an eye out for any warning signs of mental distress such as moodiness or change of appetite.
While you know you are doing a good thing, they may not see it that way at first so don’t be surprised if you receive some pushback.
Does My Child Need Therapy?
If you feel like you need divorce counseling, that’s probably a pretty good indication that your child needs some form of therapy, too. Even though you may think you can be a good confidant for your children (and in many instances you can be), they may feel uncomfortable talking to you about their feelings regarding the change in family dynamic. Having someone outside of the situation that they can trust is necessary, even if they aren’t heavily struggling. No matter what the situation is, therapy is a good idea for people of any age because it helps build coping skills that will last a life-time.
When Should I Get Help for my Kid?
You should get help for your kid as soon as possible. Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Kristen Eastman says to look out for a few concerning signs, such as:
- If your child has problems in multiple areas of life (family relations, academic performance, friendships, etc.).
- If they engage in self-destructive behaviors like hair-pulling or skin-picking, as well as engaging in any form of self-harm.
- Withdrawing from friends, family, or activities they used to enjoy.
- Lack of motivation.
Trust your gut. Even if they don’t say anything is wrong, you know your child better than anyone else, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary it’s a good idea to seek professional help – better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.
Paying for a Child Psychologist
As great as therapy is, unfortunately it can be a bit costly getting mental health support with higher copays and deductibles. What are you supposed to do if you can’t afford it?
You’re not alone.
Low-Cost Counseling and Free Help
The best place to start is at your child’s school guidance counselor or a school psychologist. The best part about getting help through school is that it’s free of cost! They can help by communicating with the student as well as with you, and help give recommendations of next steps.
Some more free or low cost counseling options include:
Local mental health centers and clinics
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources and Services Administration provides a list of federally funded clinics by state to help find a source near you.
Colleges and Universities
If there is a college in your area or your child is about to start at a university, check into the options they offer. Many will offer free counseling or offer financial assistance.
Employee Assistance Programs
See what your employer covers. Many of these free programs provide therapists for mental health evaluations and short-term treatment.
Even the happiest of people need a listening ear.
Getting divorced with kids isn’t easy and finding a way for your family to recover won’t happen overnight, so go easy on yourself and take your time–everyone heals at their own pace.
We at Divorcist know how difficult life after divorce can be and we are devoted to helping you through the process in any way we can. Check out our blog for more insightful posts, and sign up for our email list for future updates!