Q: My kids are having a terrible time coping with my divorce. As their father, I am trying to be there for them as much as I can. But nothing I say or do seems to help. What should I do?
A: Sometimes, despite all your efforts, your children will need more help than you’re capable of providing. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent, just that you know your limitations. Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Any kind of regression-a return to bed-wetting after being dry, thumb-sucking, becoming clingy after having been independent, and so on-that doesn’t disappear within just a few weeks.
- Withdrawal-from friends, family, or once pleasurable activities.
- Alienation from old-long-term friends or sudden change in the crowd your child hangs out with.
- Problems at school that last more than a semester.
- Wild or prolonged mood swings.
- For young kids: uncharacteristic fighting, aggressive behavior, or drastic change in school performance.
If you have sons, pay particular attention to them. By the time they’re only four or five, boys in our society know perfectly well that "big boys don’t cry." As a result, they’re usually far more stoic than they ought to be. But stoic behavior could be a sign that your son isn’t dealing with his emotions the way he should.
When looking for a therapist for your children, talk to several candidates before making your decision. Be sure to select someone who has a lot of experience dealing with children of divorce.