Divorce by nature is disruptive to any family unit. Landing the divorced family in a healthy place post-divorce is not always easy. Even the most reasonable, well-intentioned, and grounded individuals might lack the capacity or skills to navigate these waters independently.
The optimal solution is to give yourself and your children the gift of therapy. Take into consideration all your therapy options, also called a Therapy Cocktail.
Divorce disrupts your life and permanently alters the lives of your children. A divorcee’s life will be full of challenges when splitting one home into two.
They can include re-entering the workforce, setting up a new household, parenting on your own, managing schedules without a partner, learning to cook, maintaining household finances, and countless other challenges. In short, there is too much going on in the first years of a family split for divorcees to navigate without professional help.
The optimal four ingredients in the Therapy Cocktail include:
- The Children’s Therapist
- The Adult Therapist
- The Co-Parenting Counselor
- Family Therapy
Ingredient # 1: The Children’s Therapist
Unquestionably, the best gift a divorcing couple can give their children is a therapist to help them navigate through the changes in their lives. No parent is qualified to be both their children’s “disruptor” and “counselor” during these times.
A top children’s therapist must be dedicated to the needs of the children. In many cases, children will tell a therapist vital details about their own coping that they don’t feel comfortable telling a parent. For younger children, a children’s “play therapist” is a newer subset of therapists who counsel young children through play.
Gift # 2: The Adult’s Therapist
Are you a grounded adult who has never felt the need for a professional help? Maybe the start of your divorce is going okay, so you think, “I got this!”
Well, consider the feedback from an insightful interview featured in Take the High Road.
One divorcee was a thriving businessman who had never regularly seen a therapist. At the advice of a confidant, he sought a therapist who had done a lot of work with divorced men. During the interview, he observed things that most divorcees could learn from. Specifically, as events and issues arose during his divorce, countless times he briefed his therapist and stated how he planned to react. Yet he was amazed at how many times his therapist disagreed with his plans. He was floored about how sensible his therapist’s counsel seemed once it was framed and supported by someone who had seen similar situations countless times before. His therapist helped him make ideal choices that have benefitted him, his ex, and his children.
To summarize, despite feeling confident in his own decision-making, he couldn’t make optimal decisions without professional help. What an insightful conclusion all divorcees can benefit from.
Gift # 3: The Co-Parenting Counselor
The kind of co-parenting counselor divorcing couples meet with is typically a family therapist whose purpose is to discuss and resolve key co-parenting needs. A skilled co-parenting counselor should be able to direct the couple to resolve most disagreements while providing invaluable peace of mind.
In high-conflict divorces, basic co-parenting communication can be painful. A measurable reduction in stress stems from the adults knowing their children’s co-parenting needs are being addressed. A co-parenting counselor provides a forum that is monitored and structured to help you make the challenging agreements needed to parent post separation.
Gift # 4: Family Therapy
Family therapy programs can take a variety of formats. For example, family therapy might be structured as a four-session course involving the entire family over four successive weekends. A unique benefit is simply the optics of having the children see both parents at the same place at the same time. They can also see how both their parents are committed to a process that will help everyone cope with the divorce.
This Therapy Cocktail is certainly ideal, although time and finances may limit options for many couples. Still, in some cities, many excellent programs and resources are offered specifically to divorcees on a limited budget. The family court system would be a good place to start as a resource. It has a help desk that can guide you to available support services both within and outside the family court system.
Another idea is to search online for low-cost, sliding-scale, or no-cost mental health providers in your area.
An absolute commitment to selecting a skilled children’s therapist should be paramount on parents’ minds as they move from one to two households. Therapy together with healthy home environments are arguably the two best gifts parents can give their children after the disruption of a divorce. Especially when seeking a children’s therapist, divorcing parents must recognize the tight window available to ensure their children are processing the divorce in the healthiest manner possible.
As a parent, you are obligated to provide your children with food, shelter, and clothing. Committing to your children’s mental health should be viewed as equally essential.
Andy Heller is the author of Take the High Road: Divorce with Compassion for Yourself and Your Family. Take the High Road has been critically reviewed by leading therapists as among the top books about divorce.