Monday, December 14, 2020

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce
Please note, this is cross posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading.
Divorce isn't easy for anyone, but it can be especially hard for our children who may not have the maturity or vocabulary to understand or talk about what is happening in their family. It is hard for kids who may feel insecure, who may worry that they are unloved, who may think the divorce is their fault. 
It's obviously hard for parents too. 
And, the difficulties on both sides -- parent and child -- can make talking about divorce and making your and their way through it difficult. Books can help. 
My son was 4 years old when his father and I separated, and it was hard on all of us, but especially on JP. My priority was making sure that he understood that he was loved and wanted and that he had a safe way to explore and express his feelings. I spent a few hours at my local bookstore, looking at children's books about divorce and changing families and brought home the following books -- the first two are specifically for children and the third is for parents.
I will be honest, my son wasn't always in the mood to have these books read to him or to read them with me. Sometimes he was just mad and wanted to stomp around and be angry or to curl up in a ball and cry. But, I would calmly remind him, "Hey, I know you don't want to read these books right now, but I also know that when we do read them together, you always end up feeling better. You start smiling and relaxing and we can talk about what you're feeling and thinking about afterwards. It's OK if you just want to curl up in a ball while I read to you, or I can rub your back, or you can pace around and just listen."
Most of the time, he'd curl up next to me or in my lap or he'd want me to rub his back while we read, and almost every time, he would feel better -- and he'd recognize that too. We read each of these books dozens of times from the time he was 4 years old until about 7 years old, and they truly helped both of us to navigate difficult emotions and conversations.
If your family is going through divorce or separation or you know a family that is, I hope these books will help you or them too. 
My Family's Changing: A First Look at Family Break-Up by Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
This sweet book combines a story with discussion prompts. You can read it straight through as just a story, you can stop at each discussion prompt as you go, or you can stop at one discussion prompt and set the book aside while you talk things through.
The illustrations combined with the story and the prompts helped my son to feel like he was seen and heard amidst the grown up problems. The prompts are especially great if you aren't sure how to talk to your child about divorce or a family break up. 
There's an entire range of books in the series from topics such as family dynamics to bullying to inclusion and diversity and more. 
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Amazon HERE.
Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown
Like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce helps kids navigate the ups and downs and new normal of divorce and changing families. And, if the dinosaurs look somewhat familiar, it's because Marc Brown is also responsible for the Arthur books and cartoon series. Of all the books we had about divorce -- and we had many -- this is the one we read the most.
My son particularly liked this book over the others because of the dinosaurs. I think it was easier for him to view divorce through the lens of a non-human character and it was easier to approach a very real and difficult topic through very unreal/non-human characters. Children live in a magical space between reality and make believe, and they often use make believe to sort out their feelings about very real problems. Using dinosaurs in place of humans is a great way to help ease kids through such a difficult experience.
Also like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce is part of a larger series of books that tackle numerous topics. One of the most popular other books in the series is When Dinosaurs Die
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Amazon HERE.

Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
This book is for the adults in a child's life, but it will help you manage your own way through the divorce or separation in a way that supports your child. 
One of the reasons I love this book is that it doesn't assume anything is one parent or the others fault. In fact, it offers suggestions and analysis for self-reflection to look at your own behavior and thoughts as both a parent and a divorcing or separating adult and think, "Is this thought or behavior reasonable or am I the problem in this situation?" Ricci also gives many ideas and tips and thoughtful suggestions for how to talk to children and how to work with the other parent or guardian.

Ricci's book helped me to navigate disruptive issues with my son's father and to set firm boundaries during a difficult situation. It gave me a framework for sorting out what I needed as a half of a divorcing couple but also what my son needed and how to best show up for him. It helped me to see both sides of the divorce and gave me many excellent ideas and tips to consider when it came to the overall situation, as well as for specific situations and for sorting out a parenting and custody plan. The book gave me a vocabulary to use and a way to look at things more objectively. 

I truly believe Ricci's book helped me to navigate what was best for my son, even when that sometimes conflicted with what I wanted for myself.
There's also a kids version of Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, but I have not read it or reviewed it. Have you?
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Bookshop HERE and the kids version HERE.
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Amazon HERE and the kids version HERE.

There are many, many books about divorce for parents and children, but time and time again I am led to believe these three are the best. What books do you think divorcing or separating couples should read? How about kids stuck in the middle?


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