Children & Divorce Counseling
When couples decide to divorce, emotions often run wild and minds are preoccupied with many questions. Where will I live? How will I manage my finances? How will possessions be divided? How will we parent our children? How will I be able to cope with being alone again? What do I tell my children? It can be overwhelming.
Sometimes, as a parent, you are not aware of the questions your children have on their minds and the emotions they are going through.
As a child of divorce herself, and with over 20 years experience on the topic, Danielle Jacobs is an expert who knows as no other how to help adults and children navigate the world of divorce.
You may need so much energy to cope with the changes you are going through, both emotional and material, that you may not explain to your children what is going to change for them and how this might make them feel. As a newly divorced parent, you may simply not be able to foresee what is going to change for your child (and yourself) yet. Sometimes parents have the mis-perception that the child will not understand if they would try to explain what is going on . Truth is that children can understand more than you think if you talk to them in developmentally appropriate language.
Divorce is also challenging for children and can temporarily disrupt their sense of safety. Children can feel alone, and confused if they don’t get answers and mis-perceptions are not corrected. Young children don’t have the mental capacity or the language skills yet to express what is going on in their heads. Often, strong emotions and confusion are expressed in crying, disobedient, withdrawn, clinging or hyperactive behavior. Older children may verbalize their questions or they may keep quiet because they don’t want to bother their, already stressed out parents. Their stress can also manifest in physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches.
How to help your children during divorce
If parents don’t know which questions children ask themselves, they most likely won’t answer their questions. When parents understand what preoccupies little minds and know the right words, it can help parents support them, and answer their children’s questions. Doing this can bring clarity and reduce anxiety in a time of emotional turmoil. Answering important questions in a developmentally appropriate way will help children adjust better during and after the divorce.
Counseling can be a great option for parents and children to help them adjust in a difficult time with many changes. It can guide parents to better help their children emotionally during divorce. In child therapy, an independent counselor can be a listening ear for the child who may not want to open up to either parent. This can be because of a loyalty conflict or because they don’t have the words to express how they feel. Counseling can help the child process what is happening in their family and help them cope and adjust. It can also help to know that other children feel the same way and that they are not alone in their grief and confusion.
Extended co-parenting (court ordered or voluntary)
When parents are divorced or separated they no longer are a couple but if there are children, they never stop being parents. They still need to communicate about their children and make parenting agreements until the children are independent, even if they’d rather not be confronted with the other parent because it triggers old pain and memories of why the divorce happened in the first place. The goal of extended co-parenting is to improve communication and decrease conflict between the parents so that negative consequences of the divorce for the child(ren) can be minimized. It is in your child(ren)’s best interest to be able to grow up without ongoing parental conflict. If you plan to involve your therapist in the legal proceedings with your ex, I may not be the best therapist for you because my goal is to decrease the need for court involvement in your/your child(ren)’s lives and promote harmony. In case the court referred you, it’s good to know that I do not report any therapy content to the court, I only need to report ‘compliance’ to Family Court Services. That states, if you are keeping appointments and are participating.
Counseling can assist with symptom reduction, increased confidence, enhanced problem solving and communication skills, improved relationships and generally benefit the lives of those involved. However, there are times when painful emotions emerge and dealing with sensitive issues can become uncomfortable. I am an expert on divorce, have over 20 years of training and experience in various treatment modalities. I worked successfully with many parents and children. I have witnessed many parents and children who have found a new balance after divorce and adjusted well to the new situation. When parental conflict keeps ongoing, even after the divorce is settled research shows many possible negative consequences for children, like poor academic performance, risk taking behavior, anxiety and depression, and substance abuse. Remember that you are a role model for your child, also when you are talking with the other parent. Outcome in counseling is a function of the child, the people involved in raising him or her, the issues involved and the treatment provided. Extended Co-parenting counseling is most useful when it is a collaborative process, that is, it involves participation on both the part of the parents and the therapist.
También disponible en español:
“Nina Tiene Dos Hogares”
Danielle Jacobs helped us talk to our daughter about our divorce, understand the child’s perspective and how we can reassure her. She also helped my daughter be more calm and confident and express her emotions in better ways. After the therapy she was a happier child and slept better.