Do My Children Need Therapy? A Divorced Mother's Worries

Do my children need therapy?

I have to admit, this is something I’ve struggled with.  I’ve had extensive therapy since leaving their father – and it’s helped me a great deal.  I’ve been able to reflect on why I married their father, why I stayed married for almost ten years despite a broken relationship.  Why I allowed the emotional abuse to continue as long as I did.  I’ve been able to reflect on the coping mechanisms that I developed, and how they sometimes hinder my relationship with my current partner.  I’ve come to an understanding of how my parent’s divorce affected me.  Of how my mother’s reluctance to leave my father may have resulted in a pattern that I had to repeat.  How it’s not her fault either.

I worry about the effects on the children of seeing the tense relationship I have with their father.  I worry about their observation of the unusual behaviors their father exhibits as a result of the numerous diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues.  I worry about the fact that their father is incapable of maintaining a normal adult relationship (but thankfully, he seems to keep his dating life separate from his life with them).  I worry that our different parenting styles will lead them to confusion. I worry about my son’s learning disability and how it’s affected by the custody schedule I’ve been forced to accept.   And I worry that sometimes, despite my best intentions, I let them know how I really view their father.

They’re still young.  Puck is 8 now, Flower is almost 6.  I’ve talked to therapists, on my own, about my concerns.  I’ve talked to their family doctor.  I’ve even had a therapist speak to them.  Both with me and with their father.  I’m not averse to the idea.  My ex has had similar concerns – but somehow he’s not able to verbalize either to myself or to the children’s doctor exactly what his concerns are other than their parents are divorced, they need therapy.  Despite our communication issues, I try to keep this line open.

I know my ex really needs some therapy, but I don’t think he’s the type of person who could benefit – he’s not really able to engage in reflective behaviors.  The causes of all of his problems are “external” in his view.  And someone who isn’t able to admit that their own behaviors and thoughts are part of the problem will never learn to overcome them.

But, by all accounts, despite all of the things the children have witnessed and are subjected to, both by their father and by myself, they’re actually doing OK.  They’re normal kids.  They behave reasonably.  They have no issues in school.  They haven’t experienced any regressive behaviors.  My son had a stint of pulling the “I’m feeling sick” before school – but we talked it out, and he’s not doing it any more.

My children have seen me fall in love with a wonderful man.  We are equal partners.  They don’t see us fight – not because we don’t have disagreements, but because we don’t fight.  We discuss, come to a conclusion and let it go.  And they see how much we love each other and them.  PDAs are normal in our house.  The children see how we interact with each other.  We discuss love and parenting and money and how we deal with those things with them, on their level.

As for school, I model efficient homework behaviors in my house.  They know they need to get out their backpacks and work on their homework as soon as they get home.  My son has to do extra lessons each week to help combat his learning disability – and he does them without complaint.  In my house.

I’ve been teaching them to cook and to clean.  I’ve been teaching them about healthy eating.  Healthy lifestyles.  That life should not be lived in front of the TV – that they need to get outside.

My son is able to walk to the park on his own now and I’ve encouraged his self confidence and independence.  One of his “chores” is walking the dog.

My daughter is learning to read.  She’s gaining confidence in her words.  She’s learning math.  She’s gaining confidence in her numbers.  And she’s learning from my son’s new independence, and striving towards her own.

And they’re thriving.  Learning.  Living.  Loving.

Do my children need therapy?  They already have it – our life is therapy.  But if at some point, they need some extra help, I know where to look.

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  1. It sounds like you guys are doing beautifully! How lucky are your children to be living in such an openly loving and honest home?!?
    I was a child of divorce and then, unfortunately, experienced my own years later. Neither me nor my son were blessed with such a wonderful “second chance” as you describe … and it is a blessing. (I’ve only just remarried recently and my son is full grown now.)
    Therapists can have their place and are needed when there is no other source of support but, really, there’s nothing better than the loving care of a parent. We’re never perfect, but our love cannot be matched. And your love comes through your words loud and clear!

  2. I believe we do the best we can do with the tools that we have and you, my dear friend, have a terrific set of tools! I don’t think you have a thing to worry about.

  3. Life is therapy. Everything is just tools, right? And we all find and use tools in different ways. I’m one of five kids. We all lose a parent when we were very young. We didn’t all go to therapy. In fact, one of the ones that did is the worst off! So.. it’s strange. I think it depends on so much.

    1. Author

      It does indeed. And it all (I hope) means being willing to listen to what your children are saying – and what they’re not saying.

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