It is easy post-divorce to be in the survival mode and not really notice if there are any red flags regarding your child’s behavior. You both are drifting along finding your footing and discovering new routines. What are some indicators that your child may be thriving or struggling during this period? Here's a list of healthy behaviors that indicate your child is on the right path post-divorce.
1. Being social. He receives calls from friends and keeps up his activities with them. Is he going out to movies and events? Is she wanting to go on play dates or meet pals at the park? If your child seems more withdrawn and not wanting to hang out with peers, then investigate why. Lack of interest in keeping or making friends can be a sign that something is not right.
2. Expressing opinions on the divorce. It does not matter if they are negative or positive, just that he feels free to express his feelings. He may have the opinion that his parents are acting stupid and that's okay. When he utters one word answers to you or does not want to have conversations with others, he could be feeling depressed. A healthcare provider can be invaluable in sorting out if this is a medical issue.
3. Maintaining spirituality. Finding or maintaining spirituality in the midst of a dark situation is a good sign that your kid is doing OK with the transition.
4. No signs of cutting or self-mutilation. Self-mutilation is done when someone is in so much emotional pain that they express this in a physical way. Casually look at your child's arms to see if there are any scars. Does your child who previously liked to swim now refuse to don a bathing suit? Is your child hiding his body in a way he didn't before?
5. Maintaining good grades and turning in projects on time. If school work is slipping and homework is not getting done, have a conference with her teacher. Make sure that there are no discipline problems at school or other concerns. My son had a temporary discipline episode at school when he had just been diagnosed with PTSD.
6. Doing chores and what is expected of her at home. Complaints about these are normal, but extreme avoidance is not. If behavior is belligerent, it's a red flag.
7. Keeping up with hobbies, sports, and other interests. If your son hides out in his room and misses practices, talk with him. If he no longer wants to do other previously enjoyed pursuits, ask why. He may need to meet with a therapist to get some help with this transition.
8. Interacting with people of different ages and cultures. She can talk with teachers and older family friends. My teenager met a kindred spirit many decades his senior on a river cruise. She was a professional ballroom dancer whose husband had just had a hip repaired. My talented dancing son had a great time with a fun partner who also shared other interests. My other son enjoys practicing his language skills when traveling. Connecting with people not in one's peer group shows that a child is doing well moving on post-divorce.
9. Maintaining friendships. She does not have a questionable new set of friends. She is not secretive about new acquaintances or activities. If you feel that she is hiding something, it may be about doing drugs, drinking or precocious sexual activity.
10. Enjoying pre-divorce rituals, like going out to a favorite bakery. She still likes doing some things with you, even if it is less time spent with you. She does not avoid you like the plague and will go out with you in public.
If you notice drastic changes in a previously pleasant child, then discuss this with her doctor. Your child may not want to burden you with additional problems. She may be getting into dangerous territory that requires more boundaries. The majority of kids do okay after divorce and adjust to this situation, but it is prudent to keep an eye on them.
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