My ex-husband and I divorced when my sons were ages two and 11 months. I don’t need to tell you how much kids change year to year, so over the past seven years, I’ve continually had my eyes and ears open to any signs that they need help handling life with divorced parents. I ask myself if their dad and I are doing enough and if they could benefit from some counseling for kids of divorce or loss.
Do you know your own answers to those two questions? A lot of the time, my answers are “maybe” and “I’m not sure.” I don’t think our hearts ever stop hurting for the wounds our kids are carrying, but when should we really be concerned? What are the signs your child needs another outlet for the stress and upheaval that happens after divorce or the passing of a parent? Here are 11 to look out for.
Consider counseling for kids who…
1. Start isolating themselves and locking their doors.
2. Don’t enjoy activities, foods, or experiences they once did.
3. Show an increase in separation anxiety to the point that it’s debilitating.
4. Self-harm or show compulsive behaviors like cutting, pulling out their own hair, or excessive hand washing.
5. Worry excessively or have panic attacks.
6. Regress with bedwetting, thumb sucking, or baby-like behaviors.
7. Stop caring about their school performance.
8. Start drinking heavily or using drugs.
9. Suddenly have trouble getting along with friends and classmates.
10. Act aggressively toward themselves or others.
11. Have a sudden preoccupation with death or suicide.
Don’t assume that just because a child is performing well in school or in a favorite activity, you should ignore these other signs. Like many adults, some kids bury their emotions in their work. You know your child and if something doesn’t feel right, err on the side of caution and commit to a few months of counseling.
The good news (among all this scary stuff) is that kids are resilient and divorce or the passing of a parent can be handled in a healthy way. The experience can give your child coping skills that can be used well into the future. The other good news, that I remind myself of often, is that God loves our children even more than we do. I pray every day that they will know that love and allow it to fill any emptiness they feel.
They don’t necessarily need counseling if they…
Cry more easily.
Act more irritably.
Lash out in anger.
Counseling for kids and adults is rarely a bad idea, but just because your child is doing one of these things doesn’t mean he or she needs to see a professional. In fact, if your child is emotional around you or shouts angry words, it could be a sign that he or she is leaning on you for support—and that’s a good thing. Respond by listening well, empathizing, and offering to be there in the future.
What are some of the benefits of counseling for kids that you’ve experienced?