How can a mental health professional make the divorce process easier...

By Dr. Lami
September 10, 2013
CA FAQ/Emotional Issues

"How can a mental health professional make the divorce process easier on your children?"

For children, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. As a parent, you can make it less painful for your children. Getting help for you and your children will facilitate navigating through the many challenges presented by the situation. Knowing that you have a professional you can count on, trust and consult, will make the time of divorce easier for you.

Children are not always as "resilient" as is commonly claimed. They may pretend to act brave, but it is a defense mechanism enacted so they do not fall apart. Imagine how difficult and confusing it is for a child to be caught in a tug-of-war between two parents.

The sad fact is that many parents do not recognize that their children need therapy, they assume the child can talk to them instead. Let's put ourselves in their shoes. How many of us would have felt comfortable talking to our parents, telling them that we are not happy with them?

A parent must understand that children have their own set of issues caused by the divorce and therefore should strongly consider seeking the help of a mental health professional for their benefit. Children may resist therapy, will have questions about it, will not understand why they need it, and more. No matter what it is, your role is to encourage them, to explore their concerns, and perhaps suggest a joint meeting with the therapist to see how it feels.

In working with a mental health professional you and your child can benefit from learning the following:

  1. What to say and how to say it

    When everyone is going through change and experiencing confusion and hurt, it is crucial to learn what to say, how to say it and when! A therapist will guide everyone in learning how to best communicate.

  2. How to avoid blame

    Divorce makes everyone blame themselves. You will need to learn how to be honest with yourself, your kids, and your ex-spouse, without being critical of anyone. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, but with a little help, you can avoid blame and just give everyone space 'to be.'

  3. How much information to share

    Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, you'll need to pick and choose how much to tell your children.

  4. Give your child private time to get in touch with their feelings and to express things they cannot share with you

    In the therapist's office, an environment is created to allow clients feel safe while revealing their inner feelings and secrets. A therapist is trained to listen without posing judgment, to encourage expression of thoughts, to reassure in the expression of emotions and to show empathy and sympathy to promote healing.

    The therapist will teach your children that it is normal to experience fear, misunderstanding, confusion, rejection, disbelief, loss of security, stability, safety, embarrassment, and more. They will learn that they can have mixed feelings towards their parents (love/hate), which can be very confusing for a child who has learned to love and respect the parent. The therapist will also reassure the child of the parent's unconditional love.

  5. Let your children know it is not their fault

    Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce. They begin to recall times when they were not 'good,' for instance, when they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or were in trouble. A therapist can help your kids let go of this misconception. The bottom line is that children must know that your divorce isn't their fault.

Children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. With the help of a therapist, they can heal faster and you can learn what to say and do to comfort your children and assure them of your unchanging love.


Dr. Lami is an internationally renowned psychologist with over 18 years of experience helping her clients effectively deal with challenges associated with the process of divorce. Her services include Psychotherapy, Coaching, Evaluation (including Affluenza), Expert witness, Speaking and Consulting. She regularly writes on relationships and has been featured in the media. Visit the firm's website at drlami.com or universalinsights.net.

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September 10, 2013
Categories:  FAQs

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