While you have to expect some difficult times ahead for the children in a divorce, kids tend to be resilient and eventually find ways to bounce back. Sometimes, however, a child might get “stuck” in the process of coping with the divorce and begin acting out in more destructive ways over an extended period of time. Here are five possible warning signs that a child is not dealing with the divorce in a healthy manner, and he or she might need some professional help to get through it.
For younger children, especially, “reversion” refers to returning to a childish tendency the child has previously outgrown (e.g., thumb sucking, forgetting potty training, bedwetting). Some reversion is to be expected at first, but if weeks turn into months, the child might need some help to move past it.
2. Depression or physical ailments
It’s natural for your child to have sad days for awhile, but if this extends into months of your child being withdrawn, sleeping all the time (or not sleeping much at all), refusing food or otherwise not engaging life, these may be signs of treatable depression.
3. Mood swings and aggressive behavior
If your child becomes uncharacteristically short-tempered, starts getting into repeated fights at school or acts in other aggressive manners, it’s a sign his or her feelings of anger and pain are being repressed and are finding other ways to come out.
4. Hanging with a bad crowd
If your child (especially an adolescent) starts hanging out with a less savory group of friends and starts getting into trouble with them, this is a warning sign that could lead to more extreme cases of trouble.
5. Signs of substance use
Other significant changes in your child’s normal behavior may point to a more serious issue like drug or alcohol abuse. Examples may include plummeting grades, truancy, changes in sleep habits, being withdrawn or acting suspiciously. If you find evidence of substance abuse, get help now before the problem escalates.
If you notice any of these possible warning signs, and getting them to talk doesn’t seem to be alleviating the situation, it may be time to seek professional help to try and prevent long-term effects. By being proactive, you can help your children process the pain of divorce and find a place of recovery.