Divorce can be an emotionally trying experience for everyone involved, and this can be especially true for the children. Even the most protective and careful parents will not be able to entirely shield their kids from the feelings they will experience during this time. Further, even when they are not present during their parent's conflict, children will still feel their parents’ tension. Some kids may need help in understanding and managing their feelings about the changes in their family. When a child is struggling during and after divorce, eliciting the assistance of a trained family therapist may be the right action to take in order to support them during this difficult time. Here are some signs that your child may need a therapist:
Extreme Personality Changes
One sign to look for is a marked shift in your child’s personality and behavior. As a parent, you know your child’s usual demeanor and are in a good position to notice differences. In a school-age child, for example, a sudden change from being extroverted and talkative to withdrawn and quiet may be a cause of concern. A younger child who has less verbal ability to communicate their feelings may exhibit their stress by not being able to separate from you or needing an excessive amount of soothing. When significant changes in your child’s temperament continue beyond a short period of time, it may be necessary to seek therapeutic support.
A child may also begin to revert to earlier stages of development when experiencing extreme emotions. This coping mechanism is more commonly observed in younger children and can manifest itself through actions such as a child bed-wetting despite not having done so in years or wanting to sleep in a closed space such as a closet. They may also begin to engage in self-soothing techniques which they have not required for quite some time such as sucking their thumb or needing their old baby blanket to sleep. Regressive behaviors are usually a signal that a child needs assistance in understanding their feelings and finding healthy ways to manage them.
When a child who has not previously been physically aggressive becomes combative with others, this can be an indication that they are struggling emotionally. In older kids, this may show up as picking fights at school or being assaultive with siblings or other members of the family. Younger children may throw fits where they attempt to bite, strike, or kick people around them or even family pets. They may also have trouble calming down after becoming upset. When children express their feelings physically, it can be a sign that they lack what they need to process their emotions without assistance.
Children can internalize the negative feelings which come with divorce and develop a belief that they are to blame for their parent’s separation. They can also respond to their own extreme tension by hurting themselves. Some children may cut their own skin or, in severe situations, make suicidal ideations or gestures. If your child is talking about or attempting to harm themselves, you need to get help for them immediate mental health support.
When children are having trouble with their feelings during a divorce, finding a therapist can provide them with the support and tools, they need to process their emotions in a safe environment. The attorneys at the Draper Law Firm understand what families go through during divorce and are here to help you through this challenging time. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We invite you to learn more about our firm here.