Despite the fact that at the time of my university training, the divorce rate was comfortably at 50%, the only time I got any clinical insight into working with children of divorce was around year 2, and it was during a single presentation at a professional conference. This is true for so many well-meaning therapists who want to effectively support families in which both parents are no longer (or never were) married. For the sake of simplicity, I refer to them as children of divorce. 

Beyond Diagnoses: Children of Divorce

Here's what I do:

  • Normalize divorce: 

    • I'm a child of divorce, and a divorcee…and I'm currently in my second marriage to a fellow child of divorce. 

    • Most of my closest friends are also children of divorce. 

    • "Divorce" is not a dirty word to me. I say proudly that my parents' divorce is not the worst thing that's ever happened to me.

  • Allow for flexibility with parent meetings if both parents are uncomfortable meeting together. 

    • I also specifically selected an electronic health record system that allows each parent to manage documentation, signatures, billing, and appointments without ever having to speak to each other. 

  • Give the child an emotionally safe space: 

    • Switching between two homes is exhausting. 

    • Being the only child of divorce in your social circle is isolating. 

    • Feeling like you love one parent more than the other is confusing. 

    • Feeling like you have no control over whom your parent dates can be downright enraging.

  • Help parents reflect and troubleshoot: 

    • The process of ensuring your child has a smooth transition between homes can sometimes be laden with guilt. 

    • Talking to your child or co-parent about visitation schedules can get frustrating. 

    • Deciding how to appropriately introduce your kid to your new romantic partner can be like navigating through landmines. 

    • Coping with a kid who's lashing out at the new step-parent is exhausting. 

    • As a systemic thinker, I help parents come up with a plan that makes sense for their child's unique needs.

  • Make time to communicate regularly with a child's best interest attorney (sometimes referred to as Guardian Ad Litem). 

    • This is NOT the same thing as communicating with a parent's lawyer (see below).

Here's what I don't do:

  • Co-parenting coaching:

    • This is a very specific service that involves goal-setting, communication management, occasional mediation, and other activities that are simply outside my zone of genius. 

    • This is different from the process of reflecting on and balancing your child's mental health needs with the challenges of co-parenting, which is where I shine. 

  • Custody evaluations: 

    • This is also a very specific service that requires its own expertise. 

    • I'm happy to provide any documentation related to your child's mental health that can be submitted as part of a custody evaluation. And if my presence is required to explain this documentation in court, I am happy to comply. But providing a custody evaluation is a very different process.

  • Convincing a child to visit with an estranged parent: 

    • I'm happy to offer parent-child relationship therapy, in fact I've done this many times. However, this is only done well when the child has explicitly expressed that they are ready to rebuild their relationship with their estranged parent. 

    • If a judge has already ordered "reunification therapy," please know that this is its own area of expertise and I do not formally offer this service.

  • Convincing a parent to get on board with therapy: 

    • If both parents have equal rights to make medical decisions for the child, they must both be ready to consent to treatment before initiating services. I am happy to answer questions parents may have about starting therapy, but I'm not a salesperson. 

  • Talk to one parent's lawyer without the other parent (and their lawyer) present: 

    • Other therapists have done this…AND, I'm not like other therapists. This is a non-negotiable. 

    • If you're a lawyer reading this, please know that MY lawyer has repeatedly discouraged me from private conversations with a parent's lawyer. It's not happening. 

Finding a therapist who "gets it" when it comes to the plethora of unique challenges that children of divorce face can get pretty tiring. If you and your co-parent are both ready, let's get started.