California pediatricians now have the authority to screen children for adverse childhood experiences, including those related to a divorce. A routine physical examination may include questions to determine whether a child’s home life presents toxic stress.
A doctor may ask questions to uncover issues that could affect a child’s development. As reported by U.S. News & World Report, constant stress affects the biochemistry of a child’s growing body and brain.
Without addressing the issues causing toxic stress, a child may grow into adulthood with a higher risk of serious medical conditions. To prevent health issues from taking hold, physicians may work with families to help build a child’s resilience in combating stress.
Divorce and living separately from a parent could present a significantly adverse experience for a child. Enabling children to work through their feelings after a marriage breakup may help avoid debilitating health issues from developing.
Types of questions doctors may ask about family life
Pediatricians may ask a child whether a parent has drinking, incarceration or mental health issues. They may also probe for signs of housing and nutritional problems or domestic violence. While answering the doctor’s questions is voluntary, medical practitioners may detect triggers that cause fear or anxiety regardless of the responses.
Inquiries about peers and school
The screening process may include questions about a child’s school and studies. It could uncover experiences of online or schoolyard bullying. Kids prone to bullying tend to target children experiencing emotional issues such as those whose parents are going through a divorce.
Issues of abuse
When parents remarry after a divorce, children often become exposed to new relationships through extended families. Regular screening with carefully worded questions may help a child to reveal and discuss incidents of physical abuse or inappropriate touching.
When presented with the details of circumstances affecting a child’s development, a court may order an appropriate alteration to a preexisting custody arrangement. The insights gained through California’s screening program could help more divorced parents protect their children from negative experiences.