The negative effects of divorce can last for years after the divorce is finalized. While parents try to balance parenting responsibilities and their personal healing from the relationship, children are often caught in the crossfire. A recent study by Colorado State University suggests that more than 35% of parents indirectly or directly try to alienate their child from the other parent during custody battles. Attending family therapy after divorce helps parents learn how to collaborate with each other and protect their child’s mental health.
The Impact of Separation
While parents most directly feel the loss of a close intimate relationship after divorce, children also feel the impact of separation. They may maintain contact with both parents, but they don’t always understand why they go back and forth or why their parents decided to separate. Many young children blame themselves for their parents’ separation and experience low self-esteem and insecurity in relationships. They often struggle with talking to their friends about what is going on at home and don’t have the same social support and emotional resources that adults going through divorce have. Family therapy can help address negative beliefs that children internalize during this process and improve communication styles between family members.
Some of the negative effects divorce can have on children include:
- Difficulty with adjustment
- Strained parent-child relationships
- Attachment issues
- Negative coping strategies, like self-harm or disordered eating
Goals of Family Therapy After Divorce
- Recognize both partners’ good qualities. While you may have a lot of anger towards your ex, expressing that anger to your daughter is not always appropriate, especially if you have shared custody. Your daughter may feel pressured to choose a side and build resentment against the other parent based on your experiences, not her own. By actively looking for and identifying the good, parents can have a more productive relationship and co-parent as a unified team. Children learn that both parents have unique strengths and that one is not inherently better than the other.
- Keep open lines of communication. Many parents choose to have limited contact with the other following divorce and expect their child to pass along messages to facilitate communication. This puts your daughter in a difficult position as meaning often gets lost in translation. While you may not feel comfortable socializing with each other, it is important to be able to put aside differences to talk about your daughter on neutral ground.
- Commit to keeping communication in front of children respectful. Family therapy after divorce focuses on the interests of the child and is not intended to be couples counseling. The goal of family therapy is to build a cooperative co-parenting environment. Personal issues and sensitive topics should be discussed when children are not present. Maintaining a civil relationship helps children feel supported by both parents rather than having to pick a side.
- Get on the same page. It’s natural for each parent to have different parenting styles, but this can be confusing for girls. They learn to trust each parent with different things and hide certain things from them. Girls may feel like they are living different lives with each parent according to their unique rules and expectations. Family therapy gives children a chance to express what’s working and what they may need support with. Getting everyone on the same page helps girls cope with feelings of guilt and anxiety and allows them to just be kids.
Asheville Academy Can Help
Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for middle school girls ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and attachment issues. We are a relationship-based program that focuses on building meaningful connections through teamwork, group therapy, experiential activities, and small classrooms. Parents stay actively involved in their daughter’s therapeutic journey by learning skills through family therapy and workshops.
For more information about our family therapy programming, call 800-264-8709. We can help your family today!
Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.