Parents expect a certain amount of attitude from their children. And, of course, their moods and attitudes change. But when you're divorced, how can you tell where typical coming-of-age shifts end and deeper emotional problems begin?
Does your child need counseling? It's no easy call. Even those youngsters who appear to be handling their feelings about the divorce in a healthy way can be hurting deep down. The short answer is that therapy can benefit every child of divorce.
But the telltale signs — even for those who don't display obvious signs of suffering — come down to changes, however subtle, in your child's behavior, attitude or outlook on life.
Look over the following list. If you can answer "yes" to any of the following, you should seek counseling for your child:
Has your child's disposition changed since your separation and divorce? These are tip offs:
- They feel sad for long periods of time and nothing seems to help them to feel better.
- They think more about the past than the present.
- They cry over both little and big things and can't seem to stop.
- They can't stop thinking about their parents' divorce.
- They have little or no interest in playing or being with friends.
- They act out in inappropriate ways.
- They cannot concentrate in school.
If they exhibit any of the behaviors below, it's an indication that they lack goals or feel like they have no family and friends for support and help:
- They wake up, but don't want to get up.
- They don't eat, or they eat a lot when they're not hungry.
- They don't laugh, joke, or enjoy anything they are doing.
- They want to be alone all the time.
They may have trust issues and feel as though they don't have family and friends on whom they can rely, if:
- They believe their parent(s) haven't been honest with them.
- They don't think their friends can keep their confidences.
- They don't want to burden friends by talking about their feelings.
Any of these behaviors or verbally expressed beliefs may be a sign that children feel "stuck" after the divorce:
- They believe that they are responsible for the well-being for a parent or younger sibling.
- They feel caught in the middle of their parents' arguing.
- They have difficulty communicating with a parent.
- They feel responsible for the separation or divorce.
When tempers flare up in inappropriate ways, your child does not know how to process or express anger:
- They take out their anger on innocent people.
- They act out with teachers and other people in authority.
- They fight with brothers, sisters, or friends — more than the usual spats associated with sibling rivalry.
They ask questions or make statements that indicate that they worry a lot about:
- Their parents' physically hurting each other or the children.
- Either or both of their parents' safety, happiness, or well-being.
- Their parent not being physically with them.
- Their own physical and psychological well-being.
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