How psychotherapy can help children through divorce.
As a therapist working with children I often get phone calls from parents who are concerned about their child as they are moving through a divorce. For young children the experience of the parents splitting up is a radical overturn of their world. They have been born into the world, seeing those two parents as majestic pillars on which they could count. These friendly giants made them feel safe and comfortable.
As parents go through a divorce, there is so much pain and suffering involved, and each parent goes through this process in their own way. It is rare when the pain does not go along with accusations, resentment... It is especially hard for the child when he feels that the two trusted pillars of his world start attacking each other, disparaging each other. Even, when parents feel like they are not explicitly critiquing the other person, there are often implicit subtle messages that do not go unperceived by the child. These are very puzzling to the child. As he feels that an attack on the other parent, is actually an attack on the child.
These very subtle messages are often interpreted by the child as the parents telling the child: the other parents is as good as I am, you should love me more than the other parent. I think of a little boy who feels that whenever one of his family members asks about the things that happen at the other house, he feels that this person is asking the boy to say bad things about the other house (as he feels that this is how is communicated about the other house.) To satisfy the demand for bad things, he then tends to tell negative things about the other house in order to satisfy them. In a situation like this the boy cannot be free to speak what he wants, he wants to please the negative appetite of each house. Each house wants to hear: we are the best, you love us more than mom, or dad... The child becomes this way the victim of the childish rivalry between the mother and the father.
Hence, the importance of being able to differentiate between your being hurt as a partner, and recognizing the enormous importance or role that your ex has for your child. When you are putting down, resenting this other person, your child will feel it as a personal attack on him or her.
In my experience in work with children who are going through divorce it is important to also meet with the parents, so that they can feel validated in their role as parents.
To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970