When parents divorce, they're understandably concerned about how their kids will deal with it. The choice to seek therapy for your children is an individual one. When parents believe that they've done everything they can do, and their children are still clearly in pain or acting out in destructive ways, bringing in a professional as an objective third party can be a wise choice.
Participating as Co-Parents in the Therapy
It's helpful if both parents agree to participate in the therapy. The therapist will let you know when he or she wants to talk with you. Depending on the issues that need to be addressed, this may include just one parent, both parents and sometimes also the kids.
If you and your co-parent have one or more joint sessions with the therapist, remember that this isn't marriage counseling. You're there to learn how to deal effectively as co-parents with your children's problems. A good family therapist can help divorced parents change their communication patterns so that they can better deal with their kids' needs. Post-divorce family therapy can help co-parents understand each other's views and see that they both ultimately want what's best for their children.
When Co-Parents Disagree About Therapy
People's opinions about seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist are varied and often strong. One parent may want the kids to see a therapist, while the other may be against it. If you're the one who brings in a therapist, don't hide it from your co-parent. Unless that parent has legally been denied any role in decision-making for the kids, he or she has a right to know. If you try to keep it from your ex, you're essentially asking your kids to lie to their parent. Further, when your ex ultimately finds out, he or she may feel betrayed by all of you, including the therapist.
If you're the parent who doesn't believe therapy is necessary, but your co-parent is going forward with it, it's best to be involved. You may see it as giving in to your ex. However, if you choose not to participate, you're only harming your children. Having both parents involved can help the therapist better understand the kids and the new family dynamic.
A good therapist can be expensive. If you are considering therapy or have already begun having your child see a therapist before the divorce is final, you should address how you and your co-parent will split the cost in your child support agreement. Your family law attorney can help you do that and also provide advice if you and your co-parent have strong disagreements about therapy for your kids.
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