Can you tell the difference between normal, developmental difficulties and depression?The fallout from divorce takes its toll on you personally, and on your role as a parent. You need to be emotionally strong and stable. After all, you are your children's role model for resilience in the face of crisis. Also Read: Should I Stay Married For The Sake Of My Kids? [VIDEO]
It's challenging enough for you to get back on your feet. Yet, at the same time, you also need to keep an eye on your child. You want to notice any signs that your child may be suffering because of the divorce. And to do this properly, you have to know exactly what to look for.
The first step is not to confuse normal developmental problems with the problems that are a result of your divorce. Even in a happy, two-parent family, children have problems throughout their developmental years. You have to distinguish between normal problems and those that are more serious. Just like you are adjusting, your child needs to find his way to adapt to the new family reality as well.
It is a process that takes time and doesn't go without some bumps in the road. You need to give your son or daughter personal space and time to work through what happened in their own way. It takes time, patience and good open communication. Also Read: 10 Ways To Help Your Kids Cope With Your Divorce
There are many times when a child after divorce is struggling - even suffering. These children need extra help. To identify a child in distress, you need to evaluate whether there have been serious changes in their behavior and personality. It is not a complete change of personality, but a more extreme version of how they were acting before the divorce. Some examples are:
The Depressed Child: Michael was a quiet 7-year-old child who preferred to play alone or with a couple of select friends, building with legos. At first, his mother didn't notice anything different or unusual about him after her divorce because she saw him continuing to build as he had done in the past. But by observing more closely, she noticed he was building in a haphazard manner.
There was no clear design; he would just randomly connect some pieces together and then pull them apart. In addition, when one of his two good friends called to invite him to come over and play, he refused to go. When this happened a couple more times, his mother became deeply concerned. She found him lying down on his bed claiming he was tired and just resting. But really, Michael was depressed.
The Perfect Little Helper Child: Susan was an active, fun-loving rambunctious ten-year-old girl. Being with her friends and having a good time were always a priority. She was a decent student in school, but often neglected homework as she had more fun things to do.
After the divorce, Susan's behavior changed. She cleaned her room neatly, she washed the dishes at night and constantly asked her mom if she could help with something in the house. She was reluctant to join her friends to go and play without double checking with her mother many times to make sure it was okay. Susan was excessively nervous for her mother's well being.
The Clinging Child: Samantha was an only child and used to getting a lot of attention from her parents. They loved to spoil her with toys. They took such good care of her that they would try to do things to prevent her from crying. In nursery school, Samantha shied away from aggressive boys and played "house" with other quiet girls like her.
After the divorce, Samantha refused to let her mother out of her sight. Every morning, she cried when being dropped off at nursery school and at night, she wanted her mother to lie down with her before she went to sleep. Samantha even refused now to be left with her grandparents so her mother could go food shopping for half an hour. Samantha was suffering from separation anxiety.
The Child As The Baby: Max was an active, fun-loving 3 1/2-year-old with lots of friends. He smiled easily and often liked to play competitive games at home and with friends. He was proud to be the first in his nursery school who was toilet trained. He often helped at home by doing things like cleaning the plates off the table after dinner.
After the divorce, Max started acting silly to get attention. He would crawl on the living room floor and sometimes lie on the couch and ask for a bottle. What was most frustrating for his mother is that he stopped doing many of the things he did on his own. He stopped brushing his teeth, tying his shoes, or even washing himself in the tub. He wanted his mother to do that for him now, because Max was suffering from regressive behavior.
Most of these behavior difficulties can be overcome with proper parenting advice. Don't be alarmed or concerned as long as they don't linger beyond six months. However, there are behaviors of children that do require immediate help from a mental health professional. These behaviors include a child being dangerous to himself or others, a suicidal child, an extremely depressed child or an openly defiant and aggressive child. In such cases, you should take the child immediately to a child psychiatrist or a child clinical psychologist. Also Read: 5 Ways Divorce Benefits Your Kids
Written by Dr. Morris Mann for YourTango.com.
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