Counseling Children Involved in the Divorce Process Part V

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Counseling Children Involved in the Divorce Process

The divorce rate stands at 50% of all marriages, effecting more than 1 million children in the United States each year. This article is the final in a series of five that looks at divorce and children. This article looks at counseling children who are involved in the divorce process. The prior articles look at the cultural changes in the attitude toward marriage, the general effect of divorce, custodial arrangements and remarriage on the children involved in the divorce process.

There are a number of different theories as to how and why divorce negatively impacts children and adolescents. Disruption of the family and difficulty parenting seems to be the causes most supported by the research. When working with children and developmental research these issues need to be factored into the overall models of child development. Sun and Li (2002) did find that counseling helped the children deal with the developmental problems caused by divorce. McConnell and Sim (1999) also find that the process helped children who received counseling.

Cohen (2002) provides the following guidelines for assisting families and children; understanding the childís experience of divorce is essential, be alert to warning signs of dysfunctional marriage, discuss family functioning, always be the childís advocate offering support and age-appropriate advice and try to maintain positive relationships with both parents rather than taking sides.

McConnell and Sim (2000) reviewed the various counseling models for treating children of divorce. They concluded there were two major aspects of all models that must be applied in counseling children of divorce. The first aspect that must be applied is the importance of developing a clear contract with the parents and the child. This contract must establish clearly the issue of confidentiality and boundaries between the child, parents and the counselor. And secondly, the counselor must conduct a thorough assessment of the presenting problem.

It is incumbent on a counselor who is working with children involved in a divorce, parents involved in divorce, or parents contemplating a divorce to take reflect on all the elements of the childís development needs. A divorce brings in many conflicting parameters that must be considered. Many of the theories of child development can provide useful tools but these conflicting parameters may cause a deviation from the childhood development patterns presented by the various theorists.

Cohen, G. (2002, November). Helping children and families deal with divorce and separation. Pediatrics, 110(6), 1019-1023.

McConnell, R., & Sim, A. (1999). Adjustment to parental divorce: An examination of the differences between counselled children and non-counselled children. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 27(2), 245-257.

McConnell, R., & Sim, A. (2000). Evaluating an innovative counselling service for children of divorce. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 28, 75-86.

Sun, Y., & Li, Y. (2002). Children's well-being during parent's marital disruption process: A pooled time-series analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(2), 472-482.

Cheryl Gowin is a counseling and life coach at Discovery Counseling.

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Occupation: Counselor and Life Coach
Cheryl is a counselor and life coach with Discovery Counseling. Counseling is her second career as she has moved from a executive level corporate management Cheryl has a BA from the University of Minnesota, a MBA from North Texas University, a MS from Liberty and is currently enrolled at NCU in their PhD program. Cheryl brings her life experience to individuals and couples as they deal with issues of daily life.

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