More often than not, the better that parents can manage themselves during the divorce process, the better the child will be able to handle the divorce, and adjust to their new living situations. However, if a parent is quite distressed, the parent’s emotionality can distract them from keying in and supporting the child. This can leave child feeling scared and alone.
The answer isn’t to necessarily run the child to counselling though. The better answer would be for the parent to seek support so that the parent would then be in a better position to support their child. In the end, the parent’s relationship with the child will always be more important than any therapist’s relationship with the child.
However, there are circumstances where therapy for the child may be indicated.
In some situations, parents may need for their child to receive outside support, so the parents feels less pressure and then can work on getting themselves more together.
In other situations, a child may be harboring feelings about the parental situation. Those feelings are likely to come out as behaviour. So rather than dealing with the superficial behaviour, therapy can help draw out the child’s feelings, so they then can be shared and resolved with the parents.
Most importantly, any separated parent considering counselling for their child should take care to do research before selecting a therapist, and should have the informed consent and participation of the other parent.
Many a situation is inflamed when a parent unilaterally has a child attend counselling. It raises concern for bias in the referral and the process in favour of the parent who initiates the service. If this occurs, it can undermine the effect of counselling and create the conditions for an escalation of conflict.
As for the choice of counselling, it is important to recognize that counselling children of separated parents is a specialty, and requires specific knowledge, training and experience. Choose a therapist who can demonstrate an appropriate background to provide this service.