Dealing with divorce is a crippling experience for children. It can bring up emotions and feelings that should be addressed in a way that won't do long-term harm. One should always consult an expert when dealing with such a situation. To give you an insight, we spoke to Dr. Divya Mohindroo, Counseling Psychologist and Founder Embrace Imperfections. She has more than six years of
experience in therapeutic intervention and counseling services for clients with various mental health stresses helping them with appropriate coping mechanisms. She specializes in community and educational psychology. She is also a Member of the American Psychological Association, Indian Association
for Counselling, Premium Member of APPPAH (Association For Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health), and Lifetime Member at Counsellor Council of India. Here is what she had to say on the topic.
How do children usually feel when they get to know about their parent's separation?
Many children struggle with feelings of self-doubt they feel torn between their parents & two homes, some children feel it’s because of them & their misconduct the parents couldn’t move forward in their marriage, for many others especially teenagers they develop extreme anger or anxiety issues.
For some children the additional stressors take a huge toll on them like changing schools, shifting to a new home or hostel, having financial hardships which create decreased contact with the parent & effects the parent-child bond, making it difficult for the single parent to handle the child. Changes in family dynamics like the addition of a step-parent or step-sibling can be a confusing & critical adjustment for the child.
What kind of problems do children face when they're dealing with their parent's divorce?
- Children develop mental health problems like adjustment disorder which goes in a few months but anxiety & depression many children face for years after the divorce.
- Children develop behavioral problems like conduct disorders & impulsive behaviors which affect their peer relationships also.
- Many children resort to risk-taking behaviors like drinking alcohol & consuming drugs.
- Adolescents are also seen indulging in different sexual partners & having difficulty in their relationships.
How can the parents help to make this transition easier for their children?
As a psychologist, I always suggest divorced parents, opt for co-parent peacefully & avoid putting children in between their problems so that they don’t become anxious & aggressive. It’s important for parents to monitor children & to teach them age-appropriate behaviors.
Parents should guide the kids on how to manage their feelings & thoughts in a healthy manner, they should encourage self-care & balance in the children & advocate seeking professional help or family therapy in case they feel any struggle after trying themselves.
Individual therapy helps children tackle their emotions at the right time giving them the right direction during the divorce & after the divorce.
There are many support groups for children where they can meet & talk openly with other children facing similar issues.
Research shows kids generally suffer more during the first two years of divorce.
The correct intervention of parents or timely therapy at this time will protect children from lifelong problems.
Parents must have continuous dialogue with the child’s pediatricians & teachers to get constant support & advice on the child’s health & behavioral patterns.
It is very important to explain to your child that the divorce is just a new adjustment rather than a crisis so that feelings of anger, resentment, blame, guilt don’t stem in the child because these can lead to anxiety, depression & even suicide acts in some cases.
As a psychologist, I would encourage all parents not to brush their feelings as well as their children’s natural feelings as a reaction to this transition of divorce.
Talk therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, seek peer groups are various options that help if things aren’t in your control.
Parents should guide their children so that they don’t lose faith in the constitution of marriage.
Whatever the situation may be the parents should make the children feel safe and adopt a few parenting strategies which can help in avoiding stress in children over a period of time.