Should I Take My Child to Counseling After Divorce?
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events to experience as an adult. However, the legal process to sever ties with an ex-spouse can be all the more stressful as a parent, as divorce can create a ripple effect that reaches the entire family.
Many people are understandably concerned for their child’s mental and emotional wellbeing after a divorce. In some cases, the parental desire to prioritize your child’s needs is the only point that exes can agree on in the courtroom.
Family law is a particularly complex area of our legal system. Resolving issues like child custody, child support, and property division can elevate stress levels for adults and children alike. If you feel like your child is struggling to cope with or process your recent divorce, you're not alone.
If you recently underwent a divorce and have children, you may be wondering if counseling is the right choice. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, counseling can be very beneficial for children after divorce.
Keep reading to learn how parents can prioritize their children's physical and psychological health during this difficult season.
3 Benefits of Child Counseling After Divorce
Changes in family structure can lead a child to question their sense of self or stability within the family unit as a whole. Professional counseling services can help children process their emotions and learn how to cope with big life changes—and more importantly, the big emotions that tend to accompany such changes.
Given that children’s brains are not fully developed until they reach their mid-twenties, it’s no surprise that kids find it more difficult to cope with major life changes than most adults do. It’s unreasonable for adults to expect children to understand, let alone practice, the same healthy coping mechanisms that adults use to navigate life’s hardships.
Every child is different, as their needs can vary based on their age, unique qualities, and personality traits. This makes it all the more crucial for parents to identify troubling behaviors and understand what type of help will benefit the child the most.
While counseling can be a highly effective way to help a child recover, it may not be the ideal route for every single family. However, from a general standpoint, there are numerous benefits to child counseling.
Consider the following 3 advantages of taking your child to therapy after divorce:
#1. Counseling can help children healthy coping mechanisms.
Because your child’s brain is still developing, they lack the emotional regulation that adults can use to tolerate, minimize, and navigate stressors in life.
In serious cases, adolescent stress can rise to an intolerable level and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Physical or verbal aggression
- “Numbing” or dissociating to avoid feelings
In some instances, children may engage in life-threatening behaviors, such as self-injury or substance abuse, that can lead to additional mental health conditions and detrimental consequences in both adolescence and adulthood.
A trained professional can help the child learn to express and process emotions healthily by teaching healthy coping skills to use in times of stress or anger, such as exercising, dancing, listening to music, journaling, breathing exercises, and more. Moreover, the actual act of talking through big emotions with a licensed professional can be extremely helpful to your child’s wellbeing.
#2. Counseling can offer the child a safe space to express their feelings.
Children have a knack for being unpredictable. Kids have a longstanding reputation for stumping adults. From uttering unexpected first words as toddlers to experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions as teenagers, it can be difficult to predict what your child will do or say next.
Parents will benefit from understanding and respecting their child’s need for a “safe space” to healthily express their feelings. For many children who have undergone trauma or difficult life events like divorce, their safe space isn’t the family dinner table, but a certain social circle, engaging in a favorite sport or activity, or the quiet privacy of a counselor’s office.
It’s important for parents to understand that while communication is necessary to the parent-child relationship, there will be times when the child doesn’t wish to share a certain experience or emotion with a parent. Such preferences can fluctuate with age, personality, and the child’s social life.
No one likes being rejected, and while it can be painful for parents to accept, it isn’t uncommon for children to experience strong emotions—such as anger or betrayal—toward one or both parents after a divorce.
#3. Counseling can help children establish trust in relationships.
It’s easy to shut down after a negative life event. Even adults find it difficult to confront overwhelming emotions. However, as badly as we might want to isolate ourselves after hardship, connection and vulnerability are still integral elements of the human experience.
Most adults understand that all people rely on human connection to feel safe, loved, accepted, and hopeful. Our relationships are essential to maintain our health and wellbeing.
Children, however, cannot be expected to fully understand this at such an early age, making it all the more important for parents to help children learn to come out of their shell, be open and honest about their feelings, and understand that their trust isn’t misplaced.
A healthy client-therapist relationship can be empowering, validating, healing, and dependable for your child. It can prevent them from turning to unhealthy behaviors, such as withdrawing or repressing big emotions, after negative life events.
By processing the event with a licensed professional, the child can gradually learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable, that people aren’t synonymous with danger, and that they can trust their adult caregivers to care for and support them—even when the child is struggling.
Compassionate Advocacy for Families in Orange County
If you are considering a divorce in California, it’s important to be aware of the potential impacts on your children. While every family and child is different, counseling can be a helpful way to support your child during this difficult time.
At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, we understand the unique challenges that come with divorce and related matters. The emotional nature of familial disputes can take a considerable toll on adults and kids alike, which is why our compassionate team is here to help.
Because our firm exclusively practices family law, our trusted family lawyers are highly skilled and well-equipped to advocate for your family’s unique needs. Whether you’re preparing for a divorce, custody battle, or other legal matter, don’t settle for less than knowledgeable and dependable representation in court.
Divorce, custody battles, and other family matters can create high stakes for all involved. Our firm can help you protect what matters most. Call (949) 565-4158 to schedule a consultation.