It’s my son’s 9th birthday, the 5th birthday that has passed since his dad and I parted ways. I look at this guy, my youngest, who’s always smiling, lost in an imaginative world of superheroes and swashbuckling adventures, and I wonder “Will this year be a happy one for you?”
I unequivocally believe that my divorce was the beginning of my rebirth. I’m not saying that the “old me” died but I’m certain that the old, unhealthy crutches that I leaned on to manage my feelings and my internal struggle all went up in flames the day that I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You got yourself into this, and you can get yourself out of it.”
The question is “Do my kids have it so easy?” I asked Jonah Green, LCSW-C, how to tell if kids are having trouble adjusting to the new normal. Green works with families and children at Jonah Green and Associates, some of who are struggling with their changing family dynamics. When it comes to mental health, he reminds divorcing couples to include the children in family-therapy discussions. Green states, “..not all kids who are in a separating/divorcing family need therapy. Generally, it is most in the interests of the child if the adults (and the kids) can see the family as a “system” that is restructuring and renegotiating roles/decision-making/levels of intimacy/etc. This means that any mental health intervention, even if it’s primarily intended for a child, should aim at helping the family separate in a way that works best for all concerned.”
When it comes down to helping our kids adjust, sometimes we need extra help. Green recommends looking for these markers in a child who is struggling but who may not be able to identify what’s bothering them or know how to ask for help.
- Declining school performance
- Excessive irritability or anger
- Disobedience of house rules
- Eating or sleeping disturbances
I can say, I have seen, first-hand, kids show each of these behaviors when the authority figures are struggling themselves. The ripples we cast when we are focussing on our own discord get echoed back to us in disagreeable, anxious, and angry children.
Time is a gift and there is no better time to reach out to a mental health professional than right now to help your children
have their BEST YEAR EVER!