Your Divorce Questions Answered (Part II – Children and Families): Interview with Kristen Hick, Psychologist and Divorce Specialist
If you are just tuning in, in Part I, we covered what to expect and how to prepare yourself for the divorce process. A key component we covered was how to build the right professional and support team to help you through your divorce. In Part II, we will focus directly on questions regarding helping your children through the divorce process.
How can I help my children during divorce?
The most important piece of advice I can give you in helping your children through divorce is do not to speak ill of your spouse at ANY point – that means before, during or years after the divorce. It is vital that they hold as positive of a view of both of their parents. This is important for their adjustment during the divorce and to build healthy relationships with friends and romantic partners as adults. Therefore, sharing your feelings with them, trying to get them to see your side, or tell them about the affair or horrible things they did to you, will only cause additional confusion, hurt, and alienation.
What you do share with you children should be appropriate to each child’s age, maturity and circumstances. For example, do not assume that you can share more because your child is more mature or precocious. Children of all ages need to be treated as children, not mini-adults.
- Do not lie to them – If your ex did something hurtful to or around them, acknowledge it, help them process their thoughts and feelings, and allow them to have their feelings about it (don’t add yours to the mix).
- If your ex speaks ill of you, hear your child out, communicate that you are sorry they had to hear that, help them process, but do not retaliate. Let it go. They will move on.
- Need to Know Rule: You want to keep channels of communication open, as it effects your children and nothing more. They do not need to know all the details of you meeting with lawyers, etc.
Can therapy help my children too?
Absolutely. Children need a safe space to talk – or play – through their emotional experience just as much as you do. During emotional times, children may find it difficult to talk to their parents for many reasons, one being that they do not want to cause further stress to their family. Sometimes, children and adolescents need help identifying exactly what they are feeling in order to begin the process of working through it. The help of a child therapist can really go a long way in helping children feel like their needs are being addressed and they have their own place that’s just for them.
What if I don’t agree with the parenting practices of my ex or their new significant other?
The short answer is that you have no control over what your ex does during his/her parenting time (except what is determined by the parenting plan). That is a tough pill to swallow for most parents as your control is limited after the divorce is final.
If you have concerns that something your ex does might be putting your child in physical, emotional, or psychological danger, you should consult with an attorney immediately to determine if there is anything that can be done to modify the parenting plan.
However, as much as you would like to have them stick to the same daily routines that your children had before the divorce, or not have a new someone introduced to them quite yet, or be watched by your ex’s new significant other, when it comes to these things, you have little to no control or say-so in what happens. You can certainly bring up your thoughts and concerns with your ex/co-parent, and if done in a collaborative manner, may result in a beneficial change. However, the sooner you are able to accept inevitable changes in your ex’s parenting practices, the more you will realize a highly beneficial result for you, your child, and your co-parenting relationship in the long-run.
Can my or my child’s therapist provide testimony as to custody arrangements?
Your therapist is considered a biased professional the moment after she/he begins working with you. Consequently, they are not the best professionals to provide testimony in most cases. Therapists or psychologists who are trained in conducting Parental Responsibilities Evaluations (PREs) or Child and Family Investigations (CFIs) are the ideal professionals to provide information as part of a court case.
If you are considering divorce or have already begun the process, you likely have numerous questions that can help you take the next step. It is important to educate and inform yourself on the process as early as possible. Have the right team of support and professionals and a self-care plan will go a long way in helping you and your family move through it easier and adapt to life’s new picture. Feel free to contact Dr. Kristen Hick for more information on getting through and recovering af
Kristen Hick, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the area of dating, relationships and post-relationship/divorce growth and recovery. She is the founder and director of Center for Shared Insight, a private psychotherapy practice in Denver where she and her clients focus on Individual Relationship Therapy. Dr. Hick’s expertise lies in helping
individuals create healthy, meaningful, and loving relationships with others through healing, strengthening and transforming their most essential relationship, with themselves. You can connect with Dr. Hick on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+