HOW A THERAPIST CAN HELP MANAGE CONFLICT AND EMOTIONS DURING A DIVORCE – ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE CHILDREN INVOLVED
By: Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS & Cheryl Frommelt, LCPC, LMFT
Sometimes, marriages do not succeed. The end of a marriage can be a relief to some people, but it can also be an extremely stressful event. Even the partner who chooses to leave may experience a wide range of emotions and intense feelings that may be painful or difficult, such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, and anxiety. If children are involved, the stress level within a divorcing family is likely to be even higher.
Children will directly benefit from the divorce therapy their parents receive. Parents may often be consumed with their own feelings during a divorce, they might overlook the emotional state of their children, who may be confused by the divorce or feel guilt, loss, pain, or abandonment. Children may not be sure which parent they should “choose,” or be loyal to, and they might also worry that they are the cause of the divorce. When parents are in high conflict with each other, a child may feel even more fearful, and a child who often hears his or her parents argue about custody arrangements might feel as if he or she is unwanted by either parent, or as if he or she is to blame for the separation.
Although not the intention of most parents, putting children in the middle of conflict is particularly harmful. Examples of this are: asking children to carry messages between parents, grilling children about the other parent’s activities, telling children the other parent does not love them, and putting the other parent down in front of the children. Poorly managed conflict between parents increases children’s risk of behavior problems, depression, substance abuse and dependence, poor social skills, and poor academic performance.
Parents want the best for their children. Yet, high conflict can overshadow this desire and pull parents’ energy away from promoting their children’s best interests. Fortunately, there are approaches by which divorce professionals can help parents reduce conflict. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce, parenting/ co-parent counseling, and relationship counseling.
ROLE OF A THERAPIST
When a people separate or divorce but continue to struggle with communication and making decisions with one another, a clinical therapist who has experience working with families can help improve communication skills, design strategies for preventing and reducing conflict, bring understanding about the grief/loss process of ending the relationship and guide them through the journey of building a new life.
Divorce therapy is a type of therapy which allows couples to better achieve the dissolution of the marriage in a healthy, constructive fashion. An experienced therapist can act as a sort of mediator and set guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can also help address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations, and parenting responsibilities.
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