Children are one of our biggest worries during divorce. We asked some of our therapist presenters to share with us: what are some signs people should watch for in children after divorce, signs that indicate the child might need some help adjusting?
Here are their answers:
Celeste L. Simmons, Ph.D. – Wynns Family Psychology
Anything that is out of the norm for that child. Acting out behaviors are an easy target (i.e. stealing, suspensions, change in grades, different types of friendships etc.) Also, the opposite types of behavior can be warnings as well, withdrawal, apathy etc. Any comments about self-hate/blame may also appear.
Sharon Sheppard, LMFTA – Foundations Family Therapy
Quite often divorcing parents will come into my office saying, “the kids are fine, we are protecting them from everything.” It’s not possible to 100% protect children from the “emotional temperature” going on within the home. Signs that your child may be struggling to adjust include: trouble sleeping or too much sleep, nightmares, behavioral and academic struggles at school, isolation and lots of other indicators. The important thing is that if you notice any change in behavior, it is best to schedule an appointment with a therapist, who can help them adjust to their new “normal.”
Children view the world through a lens of “how does everything affect me.” What they don’t understand they make sense of by taking blame for the divorce. If only I didn’t argue as much; If only I was a better kid; If only I didn’t make mom and dad so angry this wouldn’t have happened. When children take on these thoughts, emotions and beliefs they are bound to act out. Increased anger and meltdowns, isolation or trying to be overly pleasing, or a peacemaker. The truth is you know your kids best, so if you observe behaviors that are not congruent with their normal self or routine, talk to them.
Dr. Tina Lepage – Lepage Associates Psychological Services
Some kids are internalizers, so if they are struggling with depression or anxiety they would be more likely to isolate in their rooms, withdraw socially, drop activities, bury themselves in schoolwork. Other kids externalize so are more likely to act out with arguing, fighting, anger outbursts, or oppositional behavior. For all kids, look for academic struggles, changes in sleep and eating, evidence of sadness, irritability, or anxiety. Depending on the child’s age, look for a change in friend group and social behaviors. If in doubt, have them talk to a therapist — it’s often easier to open up to someone besides your parents during divorce.