Counselor | Mental Health Questions Divorce

Should my child attend our divorce counseling sessions?

My husband and I are getting a divorce, and our child is 7. Should we take him to counseling, or is he too young? We want him to understand why we are getting the divorce and what it means for our family.

9 Answers

I think a 7-year-old is too young to be part of the beginning processes of a divorce. He/she is already experiencing enough disruption. On the other hand, after the particulars are worked out, they might benefit from from a family session to talk about how he will be affected by the divorce and as an opportunity to express fears and feelings. 

Marlene N. Kasman, PhD  
Children should be informed. The timing is based on how soon this is likely to happen. Plan with your therapist the details of the impending separation first. Then after you both have an understanding of what that looks like have a discussion with your therapist about how to convey to a 7 year old. Rehearse first. Anticipate questions. Keep it simple then schedule a session. Remember: he’s 7 and it has to be very very simple
I would suggest yes and no. Through the support of of competent therapist the child via language and interpretations by the therapist, could assist in the child's understanding why his parents are divorcing. Importantly, the child should be made to understand that it is not his/her fault and moreover assured of love and mitigate fear of parental abandonment. Where I oppose this lies in the age of the child and not being able to understand the issues, conflicts and emotions that would invariably manifest in such a meeting. The could be terrifying and rouse enormous guilt, anxiety, and confusion. I believe that a child could attend this type meeting if the parents are mature enough with respect to controlling their emotions while simultaneously look out for the best interest of their child. This might be too naive and gullible since this rarely occurs. Sadly, a child attending such a session creates blurry boundaries that is complicated where the focus should be on the parental relationship having lesser to do with child. The latter could better understand it all at a later age.
Hard to answer this not knowing your child and not knowing how you and your husband are likely to behave in such a session. But kudos to you for thinking of this possibility! It leads me to think that you both will be able to manage the situation with respect and intelligent responses. So, if your child is on the mature end of his age group, why not? No harm done, and maybe some good.

Dr. Marian K Shapiro
It may be helpful, though it would depend on the circumstances. Your counselor will likely be able to guide you through the pros and cons of bringing your child in and help you to decide on a good time to do so.
It may be best to work with someone who specializes in working with children to help your son understand this. I don't know that I would recommend bringing him to your divorce counseling sessions, unless the therapist has specific experience helping kids through just this kind of situation. Another option is for you to get some coaching around talking to your son about this. It would be good to give him a chance to express his feelings, any concerns, and ask any questions he may have (this will likely be an ongoing process as things transition). You don't necessarily need a therapist for this, but if you feel like you need extra support with him or for him, it's not a bad idea. He is not too young for therapy, however, therapy with kids is different than with adults. Play is kids' language, and play-therapists are trained to work with kids and interpret their play. I would recommend seeking out a play-therapist specifically if you're going to see one. I hope this helps! Wishing you and your family well amidst this transition.
That would be up to the therapist. I would advise at least not taking him to the first session. I personally think it could be better if he goes alone with the therapist and not with the both of you.
Hello and thank you for reaching out. Going through a divorce is often hard for the soon to be ex-spouses and children, it is very understandable that you want your child to understand why you are getting the divorce and what that will mean to your family. Your child is not too young, but I would suggest that you and your spouse have a conversation about what you want your child to know. If that is not a good idea, then talk to your therapist while your spouse is there, and tell them what you are thinking. Ask them if it would be possible for them to facilitate a session and tell them what the purpose of the session is. Having this discussion with your therapist and spouse prior to having a session with your 7-year old will help everyone.

You can also start talking to your child about the divorce if you have not already done so. A few things to keep in mind are:

1. Keep things simple and straight-forward. Do not share too much information. They do not need to know all the details.
2. Reassure them that the divorce is not their fault.
3. Let them know that everyone may be sad and it is ok.
4. Let them know that you both still love them and will always be their parents.

Be alert to your child's signs of distress. At times children may become more aggressive, uncooperative, and withdraw. Behavioural and school problems are common as well.

Most of all, your 7-year will do best if they know they are loved and that you and your ex-spouse will still be their parents.

Counseling for your son is important. See this link for insights as you proceed through this divorce process.