Each year, millions of Americans face living with a mental health condition. As many as 1 in 5 US adults will experience a mental health condition in their life. However, everyone can be affected or impacted by mental illness of a friend or family. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Across the country, people are working to raise awareness for mental health in adults and children. Going through a life-changing event such as divorce can trigger or exacerbate an underlying mental health condition. This happens not only in adults but also in your children. In fact, 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness. While many children may develop a mental health condition during or after their parents’ divorce, too often parents don’t realize what their kids are going through and aren’t able to get them the right support. There are some things you can do to spot when your child might need extra help during your divorce.
Have an Open Conversation with Your Child
Sometimes kids just want to talk about what’s going on in their lives and need their parents to be there for them. Take time out of your day to have a conversation with your child and talk to them about what’s going on at school, with their friends, etc. This doesn’t have to be a formal conversation, and often you’ll learn the most from them by just listening when you’re driving around places or getting ready in the mornings.
Allow Your Kids to Be Kids
We’ve talked about this before, but one of the most important things you can do as a parent when you’re going through a divorce is to remember that no matter how old your kids are they do not need to be involved in the divorce. Allowing them to remain kids and not have to worry about how their parents are doing and how not to upset them is your job as the parent. Even if you’re having a tough day with your co-parent, your child does not need to know about it.
Talk with Your Child’s School and Teachers
Your child spends a significant portion of their waking hours at school. Their teachers and school administrators may have some insight into what’s going on with your child. Talking with them can allow them to keep an eye out for any changes in behavior as well as work with you to be consistent on
Get a Referral to a Mental Health Specialist
The issues your child is dealing with is something that requires professional help beyond what you can provide. Understand that there is nothing wrong with needing to ask for help. A mental health specialist can provide support to both your child and you during this difficult time. We have many referrals to excellent therapists that work specifically with children. We would be happy to share any referrals with you. Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center for more information.
by: Amanda Singer