Mental Health Readiness for divorce

The Benefits of Counseling

Everyone can benefit from counseling during the divorce process. People going through a divorce are generally good people going through one of the worst times in their lives.  The process of divorce itself creates intense emotions.  Things that normally would not bother you will turn your day upside down.  Unfortunately, some people develop destructive behaviors as ways of coping.  Destructive behaviors might include alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, gambling, spending sprees, and revenge/vengeance.

It is normal to need additional support during the course of a divorce.  There is no shame is asking for support from a counselor.  Counseling sessions provide a confidential and safe place to talk, work through emotions, brainstorm better ways to handle situations, and role play difficult conversations.  It can provide a different type of support than what you might get from a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker.

Be open to the idea that anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications may be needed during the divorce process.  It would not be uncommon to need this additional medical support.  Remember, outside of the loss of a loved one, divorce is one of the most difficult things to go through in life.  When talk therapy is not enough, anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications may be necessary for you to be able focus the divorce process, major life decisions, the children and your job.

How to Find a Good Counselor according to family lawyer fort worth, TX

It is important that you find a reputable counselor to work with during your divorce.  The best resources we’ve found include the Texas Counseling Association, American Counseling Association, local colleges and universities, your family law attorney, or others who work with divorcing families.

Children, Grief and Counseling

Children will also experience a lot of emotions and the five stages of grief during this transition.  Just as it takes adults time to navigate through the emotions associated with divorce, it will take the children time as well.

We suggest that all parents going through divorce strongly consider taking their children to counseling so that they have a safe, neutral, third party with whom they can process through their emotions.  We are not suggesting that you place your child in therapy until they turn eighteen, but we are hoping that you will provide your children the tools and support they need to be able to process through their grief in a healthy manner.  A counselor is someone they can trust who is not Mom or Dad.  Counseling will allow them to share all of their feelings in a safe environment without feeling like they have to say what Mom or Dad wants them to hear.

After several months, if your children appear to still be struggling with the changes that have taken place, you should definitely seek professional counseling for them.  You may notice that they still seem emotionally impacted or are showing any of the following signs:  withdrawal, anger, regressive behaviors (a seven year old starts sucking their thumb again or a nine year old starts wetting the bed), problems sleeping, problems at school, self-injury, over eating/under eating, or a decline in enjoying activities they once enjoyed.

The children may tell you that they do not want to go.  Insist that they go at least once and let them know that they can go as many times as they would like to.  Listen to the counselor’s feedback about the continuing need for sessions and the appropriate frequency.

If the divorce or events surrounding the divorce have caused the children to be especially resentful towards one parent, or estranged, or severely damaged the parent-child relationship, we recommend pursuing counseling sessions to begin to rebuild the relationship.  Parenting itself is not easy and divorce adds an extra layer to the challenges of parenting.

Children & Co-Parenting

The best possible outcome for the children is no exposure to divorce and/or co-parenting conflict. It is a critical commitment that parents must keep in order for the children to continue to feel important and loved.  Whenchildren are exposed to the conflict, they may experience feelings of guilt (they did something wrong), feeling like they have to pick sides, and feeling like they are stuck in the middle, unimportant and alone.

The following items in the appendix are fantastic items for reviewing and/or renewing your commitment to protecting your children from the harmful effects of divorce.

  • Children’s Bill of Rights – see Appendix 1
  • Rules For Co-Parenting – see Appendix 2

Co-Parenting Classes

Many courts now require that divorcing parents participate in co-parenting classes prior to finalizing the divorce.  Even if you are not required by the court to take a co-parenting class, we strongly encourage you to do so.

Co-parenting is a new skill that needs to be learned.  It is not something that we naturally know how to do.  Take advantage of co-parenting classes and resources to help you and your children’s other parent make the divorce transition as easy as possible for your children.  The classes are filled with information that will help you mentally prepare and set the stage for being the best co-parent you can be.

For a list of internet based Co-Parenting Classes, see Appendix 3.

For a list of internet based Co-Parenting Support Tools, see Appendix 4.

Communication and Divorce

It is usually better to over communicate than to under communicate.  However, you and your spouse may have lost the ability to effectively communicate with each other during your marriage or during the divorce process.  If you have children and will have an on-going co-parenting relationship post-divorce, it may be helpful to find a counselor to help you design a communication plan that works for both of you.

There are some other general suggestions that may help.  First, do not  make assumptions about what your spouse (or ex-spouse) did or did not do.  Ask for clarification, repeat what you have heard, state and re-state to be sure you have been heard correctly. Likewise, think through how your spouse (or ex-spouse) might misinterpret your actions and try to over-communicate to prevent unnecessary arguments.  As an example, if you take the box of baby memorabilia to your parent’s house for safekeeping without discussing it with your spouse, it can fuel a sense of mistrust that affects other parts of the divorce negotiations or your relationship.  We have also found that some divorced or soon-to-be-divorced couples do best by limiting their communication to email or text message only.

Parenting Time

Do not be opposed to a parenting schedule that gives each parent 50% of the parenting time just because you think you should receive child support.  Alternatively, do not make decisions about parenting time in order to avoid paying child support.  It is incredibly important to the success of your children that they have as much contact with each of you as possible (barring any domestic violence/chemical/drug abuse issues).  Decisions about parenting time schedules should always be made based on the realities of the situation and what is in the best interest of your children.