One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for many people is the effect that it may have on the children. Can children’s books about divorce help to explain the situation to young ones and help them to process their feelings?
How do you talk to children about divorce? For some people, the prospect of causing harm to their children may be enough to stay together. For others, when it is clear that a divorce is necessary, it is important to understand that the divorce will affect the children, for better or worse, and that they will need to talk about what is happening so they can understand and process their feelings.
Below, I’ll discuss some of the top children’s books about divorce and some research-based tips for how to talk to children about divorce.
Children’s Books About Divorce
One way to help your children understand divorce, to lessen their fear of the great unknown, and to dispel some common myths that children have about divorce is to share children’s books about divorce with them.
Below, I’ve included recommended children’s books about divorce from Barnes and Noble bookstores:
It’s Not Your Fault
It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear, by Vicki Lansky and Jane Prince, tackles one of the biggest challenges facing children of divorced parents – feeling that the divorce is somehow their fault.
Whether it is rational or not, young children often blame themselves because they don’t understand why the divorce is happening and what may be years of difficulties that led to their parents’ separation. The most important thing divorcing parents can do for the children may be to reassure them that it is not their fault and that they will always be loved even when mom and dad aren’t together.
Was it the Chocolate Pudding? A Story for Little Kids About Divorce, by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo, also tackles the difficult misconception that divorce is somehow a child’s fault. “The little boy in this heartfelt story thinks that a messy disaster with chocolate pudding on the walls was the last straw in his parents’ marriage. This book reassures him, and the reader, that it’s not your fault.”
I Have Two Homes Now
Two Homes, by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton, focuses on another aspect of divorce that is difficult for many children – Where is home? Mom’s, dad’s, or am I going to have two homes now?
Children may need to hear that they have two homes now – “two beds, two toothbrushes, and two sets of friends,” and that they are loved and at home no matter which parent they are with.
Living with Mom and Living with Dad is another wonderful book for younger children that explores what it may be like living in two different homes, with “two houses, two bedrooms, and two sets of toys.”
It’s a “clever lift-the-flap book” that may help to reassure children that “they are loved in both homes, and that’s what matters most.”
Who Will Answer My Questions?
A Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parent’s Divorce, by Nancy Holyoke, is a 120-page “guidebook” that anticipates and answers your child’s questions about divorce. It includes “quizzes, tips, advice from real-life kids, and even a ‘Girl’s Bill of Rights’ to cut out and hang on the wall,” and may be the perfect resource for a young girl with divorcing parents.
Dinosaur’s Divorce (A Guide for Changing Families), by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, provides answers for your preschool to first-grade aged children from a reliable source – dinosaurs.
It includes relatable dinosaur children who are navigating their own dinosaur-parents’ divorce and “sections about why parents divorce and what life will be like now (including chapters on holidays, stepparents, and stepsiblings).”
The book “speaks clearly and pulls no punches,” something that can be difficult for parents who are struggling to find age-appropriate ways to discuss divorce with their younger children.
How Do I Talk to My Children About Divorce?
Using children’s books about divorce can be an extremely helpful tool, but it does not replace actual conversations with your children – they need to hear from both parents, they will need in-person reassurance, and they have questions they need you to answer for them.
Below are some suggestions from Psychology Today, based on research including in-depth interviews of children whose parents have divorced.
You must tell the children what is happening, but when? Where? How?
Although no one can answer that question for you, one thing was clear from the interviews – when, where, and how matters. The study revealed “that the memory of finding out sticks with children, potentially bringing back the pain when recalled.”
It’s one of those moments that children will likely remember for the rest of their lives – put some thought into the setting and the circumstances under which you tell the children. Do you tell them as you are rushing out the door? In the car on the way home from school? Immediately after they heard you and your spouse argue? Or should you find a quiet moment in a comfortable place, preferably with both parents present, and with enough time to answer all your child’s questions?
Which Child Should I Tell First?
Some parents choose to tell their older children first, thinking that the youngest ones need to be sheltered and may not be ready to hear what is happening.
The study showed that this method creates two issues – 1) the older children now have the burden of keeping painful secrets from their siblings, and 2) the youngest children may end up feeling like their parents don’t think they can handle problems…
The article recommends that you gather the entire family and tell everyone at the same time.
Allow Children to Own Their Feelings
Your children may react positively or negatively to the news that their parents are separating. They might feel relief, sadness, grief, outrage, or anger. Whatever their reaction is, even if you do not understand it or it is not what you expected, allow them to have their feelings. Don’t tell them what to feel or suggest that their feelings are wrong…
The Never-Ending Divorce
Some divorces can drag on for years. It could be the parents change their minds several times, they have a lengthy separation, or they cannot agree on the terms of the divorce resulting in extended litigation.
There are two lessons from the study – 1) when you talk to your children, give them an honest opinion on how long it may take, and 2) once you have decided that a divorce is necessary, as one child in the study said, “Get on with it.”
“For children, the never-ending divorce feels like a 12-hour drive to Disney World done in one day: Uncomfortable and interminable.”
Answer Your Child’s Questions
You can see that your child is experiencing emotional pain. You feel like you and/or your spouse have caused that pain, and the only thing in the world that you want at that moment is to take their pain away and make them feel better. It’s what parents do.
Despite this, divorcing parents must answer their children’s questions and give them honest answers. Although “everything is going to be okay” might seem like a nice, feel-good response when your child is hurting, the best thing a parent can do to reduce their child’s confusion, hurt, and anger is to be honest with them.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
What message will it send if each parent tells the children it is the other parent’s fault? As painful as it may be, experts recommend that parents accept responsibility – jointly – for the failure of their marriage to protect their children from feeling like 1) they are the cause of the divorce or 2) they must choose one parent’s side.
Your Myrtle Beach divorce attorney on the Axelrod team is not a therapist – our job is to use the law to protect you, your children, and your financial interests in and out of the courtroom when divorce becomes necessary, whether that means hard negotiations or a trial in the family court.
We do, however, understand the pain and upheaval that divorce can cause in a family home and its effect on your children, and we can recommend qualified therapists when they are needed.