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The idea of any changes to your relationship with your children is, undoubtedly, emotionally distressing. Parents may experience changes to their parent-child relationship during separation or divorce, where custody arrangements must be negotiated.
Child custody cases are highly emotional and complex, as many parents have different desired outcomes. As a result, many parents face challenges agreeing on important factors, such as the frequency of visits and the child’s upbringing.
When challenges related to custody start to affect your daily life, they can lead to symptoms of common mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. While you’re navigating custody issues, it can be helpful to seek mental health care for extra support.
Mental Health Challenges Related to Custody Issues
People react in different ways when faced with custody issues, and every individual case is unique. With that said, some common mental health problems that may arise when negotiating child custody include the following:
- Anxiety and worry: It’s normal to feel anxious or worried about your child’s upbringing. Sometimes, it might be hard to relax or focus on other things.
- Depression: Changes to your parent-child relationship might leave you feeling hopeless, depressed, or in a low mood.
- Anger: It’s common for parents to feel angry when custody agreements change. You might feel like you’ve lost control of your child or that the visitation agreement is unfair.
- Stress: Custody cases can be incredibly stressful. You might experience physical symptoms of stress, such as digestive issues, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.
- Relationship issues: In many cases, custody issues arise in the context of relationship issues, such as divorce from the other parent or separation from the custodian of the child. Separation and divorce can be complex, and negotiating with the other custodial parent can be a significant source of stress.
- Social withdrawal: During the custody case, it might feel tempting to isolate yourself from friends or family members.
Types of Custody Issues
Even though both custodial parents are expected to act in the best interest of their child, several issues can arise during the custody case, such as:
- Parental conflict, or conflict with the other custodian of the child
- Balancing other responsibilities, such as work, with custody proceedings
- Difficulty setting up virtual visitation or arranging in-person visits
- Financial stress and arranging child support payments
What should you do if you’re experiencing custody issues?
While you’re navigating your custody case, it’s essential to look after your physical health and mental health, as well as the well-being of your child. Several resources can help you maintain good mental health throughout the custody evaluation, including the following:
- Therapy. Therapy can be a useful tool to help you understand your custody case and develop healthy strategies to navigate any related mental health issues. Depending on your specific situation, you might attend individual therapy, seek counseling with your child, or try couples counseling with the custodial parent. It’s important to remember that divorce cases and custody agreements can be confusing for young children and adolescents, and therapy can help them navigate this stressful time.
- Social support. Although it might feel tempting to withdraw from friends and family members, you should avoid isolating yourself. Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can provide a valuable source of emotional support.
- Support groups. Many people experiencing custody challenges benefit from joining a support group. Support groups allow you to share your personal story and learn from people in similar situations. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers various support group resources, including NAMI Hearts, NAMI Homefront, and NAMI Family.
- Self-care. Don’t forget to take care of your physical health during this time. Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness techniques can help you build resilience and ease mental health symptoms.
- Parent education programs. The Center for Divorce Education offers parenting classes that can help parents support their children throughout the custody process.
- Legal representation. If you have any concerns about custody proceedings or child custody laws, it’s best to contact a legal professional for guidance and support.
- Helplines. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or need immediate support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you think your child is in danger or at risk, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Finding the Right Therapist
Everyone processes custody issues differently. To take care of yourself and your child during this stressful time, it’s important to find an experienced therapist who meets your needs.
To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a licensed therapist you feel comfortable with. One of the qualified therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you navigate your mental health challenges, regain strength, and work toward mental wellness.