Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences for both adults and children. Every family deals with it differently, but in some cases, your child may need professional help to work through emotions associated with the changes. It can be difficult to figure out when your child is showing signs they need to see a therapist. To help parents understand whether their child needs therapy after a divorce, we’ll take an in-depth look at warning behaviors and discuss steps to take.
1. Emotional Sensitivity Inhibiting Daily Activity
Divorce can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult for children, who are often not old enough to understand the implications of such a significant change in their home life. Everything they have ever known or depended on is suddenly disrupted, resulting in an onslaught of emotions ranging from sadness and grief to anger, confusion, and insecurity.
Even after the initial shock has worn off, children may still experience an inability to fully process their intense emotions. It is important that they have access to a support system -- someone to talk to openly, who will provide comfort and reassurance as the young person embarks on this difficult journey. A listening ear and the ability for children to express themselves openly can make all the difference during this transition.
However, if your child’s feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, etc. persist for several weeks or months and interrupt their normal daily activities, you may need to speak with your child’s doctor to determine if therapy is needed.
Examples of interrupted functioning may include:
- Lack of interest in playtime
- Forgetfulness or carelessness for hygiene
- Drop in school performance
- Withdrawal from social activities
2. Increase in Health Problems
During or after divorce, physical symptoms may arise such as difficulty sleeping, stomach aches, and headaches. Not getting enough sleep can have a domino effect and lead to issues such as a weakened immune system.
Severe forms of depression can also occur due to the changes divorce brings, and this mental health issue can lead to an overall deterioration of a child's health. In most cases, it is important they follow a care plan laid out by your child's mental health professional.
3. Risk-Taking Behavior
Divorce is a life event that often has long-lasting implications for a child. Studies have shown that adolescents with divorced parents are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as early sexual activity. Other high-risk behaviors may include abusive relationships and substance use.
In the United States, adolescents with divorced parents are more likely to turn to alcohol earlier in life than their peers whose parents remained married. Similarly, they may also report higher rates of abuse and experimentation with illegal drugs such as marijuana, tobacco, or even harder substances. While no parent plans for their marriage to end in divorce or wishes this painful experience upon their children, it is important to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting adolescents from engaging in risky behavior due to the effects of divorce.
MayoClinic lists out tips to help your teen avoid drugs. If your child is having trouble with drug use, speak to their healthcare provider for help.
4. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be very difficult to experience and is particularly common in children whose parents are divorcing. It can manifest in the form of physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, not wanting to eat, or even vomiting due to the stress of the divorce. Additionally, a common feeling experienced by these children is that they are losing one of their parents, which can create feelings of fear and insecurity.
Signs of separation anxiety in children may include:
- Refusing to sleep alone
- Repetitive nightmares of separation
- Refusing to go to school
- Being very clingy even at home
- Panic or temper tantrums at times of separation from parents and/or caregivers
If you believe your child has separation anxiety, seeking help from your doctor can find the best form of treatment or therapy for your child.
Divorce can be a difficult situation to transition out of and it is important to keep in mind the impact it can have on children. While some are able to openly express their feelings, others might not display the same tendency. If your child is having difficulty dealing with the change and begins to develop any signs of physical or mental health issues or struggles in school or daily routine tasks, seek help immediately. It is essential that kids and parents alike have an open support system during these times so the family can continue to function in a healthy, loving environment during and after divorce.
The Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC is here to provide quality legal services for you. Contact our firm if you need assistance with child custody or child support.
Reach out to us today at (845) 605-4330 or contact us online.