Do All Kids of Divorce Need Therapy?

Updated on August 01, 2013
E.T. asks from Albuquerque, NM
20 answers

I've recently seen on here quite a few people sending their kids to therapy or a psychologist as they're going through divorce, or after. And I've seen other people recommend it whenever divorce is mention. I'm in the midst of a divorce myself and hadn't considered getting a counselor for my kids. They seem to be handling it fine... no acting out, not sad, etc. They spend time with both their dad and with me and we never bad mouth each other to them. So am I missing something by not getting them professional help? Is this going to come back to bite me when they're 20?

For those of you who grew up with divorced parents -- those who did it amicably, did you get therapy? Do you wish you did?

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answers from Houston on

It's not just about how amicable the break-up is. It is about the fact that everybody used to all live together and then one day they just didn't. That affects different people differently, and you won't always see it right away.

The point of therapy/counseling is two-fold: (1) To offer tools for moving forward in a healthy way and a gauge of how things are going; (2) To help navigate through whatever thoughts and feelings that might not have ready answers. I believe that every single person can benefit from introspection in order to understand who they are and why they do what they do. It could help in making healthy choices.

Often times, parents are so caught up in the divroce themselves--DUH--that they don't exercise (objective?) judgment that is best for their children. Counseling from an outsider who deals with it every day might be helpful.

Oh, and I think that the earlier they go, the better off they'll be. Their individual coping methods can be developed and addressed before the unhealthy ones are set and become who they are.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

People (including kids) tend to internalize their angst a lot. Kids especially know how to go with the motions of life but don't know how to verbalize how they are feeling deep down. My parents divorced when I was 12. I really wish I had someone I could trust to talk to about it. Someone who was un biasd and had only my interests to look out for.

So yes - I think all kids should see counselors if they are going through a divorce.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

My simple answer is this....yes.

My 3 siblings and I did not get any counseling. Our parents divorce has affected us in so many different ways throughout life and relationships...still affects us. But we are kind,compassionate and hard working people. Thank heaven for the examples/mentors of our friends' parents, teachers and church leaders. Also, the desire to never do to our kids what our parents did to us.

A safe place to cry and share our anger and insecurities would have been very comforting and therapeutic.

Our home crumbled around us and we had no one to help us learn to cope with the rubble. Our parents were to busy in their own pain and search for "happiness".

Kids get stuck with so much emotional baggage and hurt and without some therapy we learn to cope in our own immature ways. These coping mechanisms are usually not healthy to body,mind or soul.

Don't be deceived by a child who appears to be handling it well on the outside. My smile and happy demeanor deceived many...but inside I was withering under depression and hiding an eating disorder. Kids usually don't go asking for help. And parents who are so busy in their own "new" lives or just trying to keep their head above the water are often oblivious to what is happening right in front of them.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We went as kids when my father remarried. It was family counseling.. It ended up being aimed at my father and his wife.

She told my sister to "straighten up or our dad would not love us any more".

Also my sister would repeat some of the mean things Stepmother would say and my step mom would grab sister heair and pull it.

My dad told us over and over, our stepmom was a better mom than our mother would ever be.

As you can imagine. the Counselor had a lot to say to the adults. She asked us a few things and guided us on what our "rights were" in speaking up to my father.. Then told him to start acting like a father and quit thinking about his needs.

As an adult, I had a lot of issues of anger towards my mom and dad. Therapy helped me a lot. I learned that my parents really were products of their childhoods.

My biggest deal was that when they divorced, I was thrilled. Our home had been awful. I had known as a young child they dd not love each other and wished my father would just leave. Everyone else was devastated, so this made me feel like a bad person.

The divorce was the best for all of us. It was toxic in our home. Everyone else thought we were the perfect family, but it was hell.

FYI, My father has now been married 3 times. He has finally admitted his drinking and anger problems. He is married to a wonderful woman and they are very happy together.

My mother did remarry 22 years ago.

I have been married over 30 years.

My sister was married for 10 years.. but she has issues.. Anger issues. My father and I tried to go to therapy with her, but she could not handle it and even though she is the one that asked us to go, we have never been back.

You need to listen to your children. Even if they re silent.. This means, listen to their conversations and questions to make sure you know where they are emotionally.

Stress, depression, fear, confusion are all normal things. I tried to protect my mother from bad news in my life.. I did not want her to be any more stressed than she was.. There were signs that I was stressed and feeling guilty about how I felt about my dad, but I did not want them to fight about it, because of my feelings.

You need to answer their questions honestly on the level they can handle. You will have to tell them over and over, this is not their fault. That this is a grown up thing. That you and their dad love them and nothing can change that. That you and dad feel like having them is the best thing to happen in your lives and they are free to tell you anything, and ask you anything.

Hang in there. Children need to be in happy homes, with parents they can share everything with.. They may do well speaking to someone who is not in the home.. You could try it and if and when they say they do not feel like they want or need to go back to counseling, they can quit..

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

ADD: Fuzzy's point may be valid, but I think this is more the case when the problems of the parents are obvious. When they are dysfunctional but non-violent - things that kids might not "see", that is where therapy is helpful. And another thing, if a kids issues "go away" when the divorce is over, you may end up having to deal with the fall-out later from the stuff that caused the issues in the first place. Just because the CAUSE is gone, doesn't mean the impact of that isn't still felt, even though the behaviors are not happening the damage was done.

ORIGINAL: My mother divorced twice before I was out of high school - technically 3 times counting the man she was married to before I was born. It would have been nice for my sister and I if we'd had counseling, as we wouldn't have carried as much of the emotional baggage we had from her failed relationships with us into adulthood. I got myself therapy when I graduated from college because I was sick of not being able to have healthy romantic relationships. My sister is in her early 40's and is a hot mess. It did me a world of good.

The key words are "seem to be handling it fine". Honestly, my parents had NO idea how I felt, and even when I told them, they didn't deal with it. You and your husband may be doing a great job in terms of divorcing in a "friendly" way, but divorce sucks no matter how "nice" it is because the family is broken and has to be rebuilt. Having someone that is not part of it that they can talk to honestly - because talking to either of you will feel like a betrayal of the other - may be very helpful. Even if it's a school counselor, that might be enough.

Ask your pedi about it. They may have a referral, or you can talk to the school counselor once school starts and they might be able to help.

Good luck, and awesome of you to be tuned in like this.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My parents divorced when I was 12. A crucial age in my opinion. My mom had just had a car accident and was almost killed when they decided to separate soon after she was released from the hospital. Again, when I was just at the driving age, my mom broke both arms and I was forced to be the driver, caregiver of the family for a while.

We did not have professional counseling. Our parents did not bad mouth each other. In time, they both moved on to other relationships.

It was and still is awkward because there is a divide between the families and I just have to dance on eggshells to not upset someone. Although my mom and dad are civil, they do not want to be in the same room with each other to this day and you can see the tension level if they are... mostly at funerals, etc. My brother and I joke that we have to have 2 funerals each... one for each side of the family.. That sucks.

It is a hard life with divorce. At 13 I was working and before I was out of high school, I was working 3 jobs to save for college. I worked through college as well. I was also very involved with the Miss America pageants and worked my way through to a state level which involved some scholarships which helped with my academic scholarships to pay for my college.

Am I any better now... who knows. I do have strong work ethic and I do think that helps with the business my husband and I developed.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My parents (mom and adoptive dad) didn't fight in front of us at all, but it would have been helpful to have had support. Dad was very sad about the whole thing, and then angry. Mom was very 'well that's too bad' about the whole thing, and then, also angry. A neutral third party via some play therapy would have been helpful; I might not have chosen to keep so many things to myself and spoken out sooner about what did bother me.

I'd say that if the adults involved were able to stay emotionally healthy with the kids, not burden them with their feelings or expectations, that's really something. Sadly, after having worked with kids for a very long time, it's also extremely rare.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I think kids process divorce in lots of different ways and you have no idea how it may impact them later.

My parents divorced with I was 8. I did "fine"... my siblings did "fine"... until we got into serious relationships and/or had kids. And then buy all accounts we've all done "fine." But there has been divorce and unhappy marriages and relationships for most of us. I have had therapy, some of my siblings have also. All of us should have. But I don't know if having at early ages would have helped.

It was a different time then and shared custody was handled differently then it is now. My parents did the best they could with what they had to deal with, but it was not enough for us to grow up all well adjusted adults. Dad was self medicating and not present. Mom was mostly absent and pursuing a nursing career to provide better for us and support 6 kids. We had no support and there was a lot of sibling parenting, no boundaries, lack of supervision... which wasn't enough for anyone.

I think if you and your ex are willing to compromise for the best of the kids and you can put aside what caused your divorce in the first place for the sake of the kids, it can be done. And if you can provide healthy examples of what relationships are supposed to be kids can turnout ok.

Best of luck~

I also wanted to add that my husband's parents stayed together in a very dysfunctional relationship and he needs therapy just as much as I do... so it's not just happening in divorced families. Dysfunctional parents who stay together for the wrong reasons can screw kids up just as much.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Kids are kind of like animals. Often, you don't know how bad they are hurting, until they can't hide it anymore. It's amicable for YOU, that doesn't mean it's amicable for the children emotionally. When my parents were going through there stuff, the last thing I was going to do, was speak up about my hurt. That's what kids do, they don't want to cause problems. (Even though it's not a problem. It's just how kids think.) No matter how many times they talked to me, I'm sure I seemed perfectly fine. I really wasn't. Your kids aren't going to tell you how bad they hurt. Trust me. When you get serious with someone else, or your husband does...I bet you will see a little more of the discomfort.

Think about it, divorce changes a child's world FOREVER. And at a very vulnerable time. They have the potential to carry this baggage, forever. I don't know if ALL kids need therapy during divorce. I think it's a good idea with ALL kids, though.

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answers from Cleveland on

Mine had an amicable divorce, for all intents and purposes I was and am relataively normal, but I have to work hard to trust people, I have deep deep sadness in me, I could go on and on, IF I choose to dwell on it.

I don't choose to dwell on it but I bet if you looked at statistics I'm pretty rare. I bet a lot of other kids choose ways of numbing the pain a bit, that weren't so effective in the long term.

I was also 13, so older if you will. don't know if that makes it harder or easier.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hummm..... Seems to me like BooBoo is a fine example of why you might want to try out a little therapy.

Here is the thing. Therapy can't hurt. Sometimes, your kids will keep stuff bottled up. It's a good idea to at least seek some counseling and get a professional opinion on how they are doing. After a few visits, you will know if it's something to continue or maybe pulse on and off as things ebb and flow.

Best of luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

The effects of divorce will follow children into their adult years, they might seem like they are handling it fine now but who knows how it is going to affect them in the future. If a professional can help them deal with their feelings NOW, when it's happening, then it can save grief and problems well down the line. Any major change is going to be somewhat traumatic to a child, the loss of an in home parent (even if it is just to a house or apartment down the street) is about as traumatic as it gets, so why would you not want to give your kids all the help you can to process this major change? It can't hurt, and can only help.

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answers from Chicago on

I think that part of it depends on the maturity of the adults getting divorced. Most adults turn into vengeful teenagers during a divorce. Maybe only one parent makes this turn, but often times both do to a degree. In these cases (personally never have I seen or heard of a successful amicable divorce) the kids are better off with someone who is a safe place to land - often times it is a therapist. I think that as long as your kids are doing well and are open with both parents in communicating their feelings during the process and the parents are not wrapped up in themselves and their own situation you are okay to skip the therapy.

In my case, as a child of divorce, my dad was a prick - did everything he could to leave my mother (us) with nothing and he even tried to sign away his parental rights. We needed the therapy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

I think it depends on the kids and their level of processing information. My parents got divorced when I was 15, and I had 2 younger brothers. The court ordered us to go to counseling sessions as a family and individually. After going to the required amount (I think it was 3 of each), the counselor recommended that I did not need any more, my middle brother should continue, and my mom definitely needed to continue.

I got what I needed out of it at the time, but their divorce did have an impact on me later when I grew up and started having my own "grown up" relationships. Same for my brothers. But I don't believe that having more counseling sessions at a younger age would have helped that.

I'm in the psych field myself. Too many people these days believe therapy is a quick fix or a remedy for all problems that come up in life (note all the answers on this very website that will automatically jump to "you need counseling" and "get some help"). Counseling is a very important tool that can be utilized, don't get me wrong, but it is not a place you go to get answers or fix your's a place to go to gain clarity and open up about possible deeper issues that may be affecting your processes.

I think that if you feel like your kids need to talk to someone, even just for an evaluation or initial consult, go for it, and take it from there. But I don't believe it's always necessary.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

No. Sometimes the divorce is actually the best thing for the kids as well as the parents. It was when I divorced my daughter's stepdad. Her "issues" actually went away once we were away from him.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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answers from Washington DC on

i think therapy can be a great thing. i think it's also kinda weird how we rush to it in this culture.
my mom died when i was 10. dad was an alcoholic. his remarriage was stressful on everyone. we all probably could have used therapy, but somehow survived and thrived without it. also got through some post-partum depression, and the recent death of my (eventually beloved) step-mumsie without therapy. the only time i've used it was 2 sessions with a marriage counselor when we went through a rocky period. it was terrific, and put us straight in no time.
i think there is no shame in going to a therapist if you need one. i also don't think it's a baseline necessity for folks who cope fine without one. sounds as if you and your ex are handling everything well, and that your kids are fine.

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answers from St. Louis on

Depends on the divorce. Ours was ugly and he didn't mature much during or after the process. Two of my four went into therapy to learn to control their anger towards their father.

To me there are reasons kids act out, get angry, whatever, and these are all kids. Divorce just adds one more reason to explore but it doesn't by its nature cause mental issues.

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answers from Detroit on

My mother divorced (she always blamed us kids) and remarried 4 times (she is working on her 5th.) Did I need therapy? Nope, I was happy those men left her because we would not have to spend so much time at the sitters house! Was the divorces amicable? Nope, cops were called all the time. Did I wish I went to therapy? Nope. She was one who needed a man to support her, and pushed here children away...



answers from Los Angeles on

Not all kids of divorce need counseling but it is helpful.

I know a lot of kids whose parents stayed together and shouldn't have that needed counseling.

I saw kids coming from a family where the parents had a healthy marriage and they needed counseling.

It is a personal issue per the individual and their needs.



answers from Oklahoma City on

It's all about how the breakup happened as far as I think. If the parents act like grown ups and the kids aren't very young then the kids can understand the issues.

If the mom and dad are open about issues and tell the kids that they are working on things well before just announcing "Hey, dad moved out this morning and I saw an attorney to file for divorce. That means dad doesn't live here anymore" then the kids are well prepared for any separation that might come.

I also think that trying to save your marriage and working on it by going to counseling even for a short time can often make all the difference. Either way the kids are prepared and it's not an announcement that is a total surprise.

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