Children's Books about Divorce and Separation
Many children may have a difficult time processing how their life will change when their parents separate or divorce. Mental health professionals offer resources and references including books to help children process change especially when the topic is discussed by third parties with children in stories. The below list is a helpful reference regarding children’s books that bridge the topics of divorce and separation.
1. Let's Talk About It: Divorce by Fred Rogers
Age Range: All ages but geared toward younger children
This is a favorite because it helps prompt discussions regarding feelings and provides a sense of security. The book is helpful for all types of families going through life changes, whether amicable or high conflict. The pictures are of actual divorced families and may seem a bit dated but are very helpful to show children that have been through a similar experience. The suggestions to help manage stress include drawing, finding a special area, and "pounding some clay."
Helpful tip: Using sand, clay, play-doh, or even using pizza dough with your children promotes relaxing and calming experiences. It also is very therapeutic and stimulates neural connections in the brain. Playing with dough can help a child deal with emotions about stressful life changes. Consider having a play date with your child to reduce stress by pounding dough to make a pizza or with sand to build a sandcastle.
2. Two Homes by Claire Masurel
Age Range: 3 - 7 years
This book is more simplistic and geared toward younger children. It features cartoon illustrations to show the child's home with each parent. It is a delightful book for amicable families without mentioning any conflict or blame. The child named Alex could be a boy or girl.
The story helps the child see that they are loved at each parent's home. Interestingly, the dad's house is a lakefront location with blue skies, and mom's home is in a crowded rainy city. The book has a straightforward message to help a child adjust to parents that have separated. It may not be as helpful for an older child to address feelings or more complicated issues during divorce or separation, however.
Clients have provided feedback that this is a favorite to read together with their child from age 3 – 7 to help adjust to the changes with two homes.
3. My Family's Changing by Pat Thomas
Age Range: 5 - 9 years
This book is geared toward higher conflict cases and includes information about parents that are arguing and children that are reacting with negative or "naughty" behavior. The main character, Natasha, points out that it is best to avoid placing blame on anyone involved. "It is not your fault when your parents get divorced, even though it may feel like it," she states. It's your parent's fault..." There is also a picture of parents arguing, which may help or may not apply to all families if parents can reduce conflict in front of the children.
The book includes symbols to prompt discussions between the child and the person reading the book with the child. The back of the book contains an explanation on "How to use this book," a glossary of terms, and additional reading suggestions.
4. When Mom's and Dad's Separate by Marge Heegaard
Age Range: 6 - 12 years
The goal of this book is to encourage children to express their feelings by drawing pictures. The author points out at the beginning of the book that "It is easier for children to draw their feeling than to verbalize them." Therefore, this book may be better suited for children that need help finding ways to express their feelings. Signs of distress, such as headaches, tummy aches, and behavior issues, can be indications.
This book has precise terms explaining marriage and divorce. It also includes a list of problems including anger, terrible things, and that parents may decide "their marriage was a big mistake." The next page states that divorce may include "many changes …parents that are busier, angry and sad" and "something important may be lost."
Please note: Page 18 contains a suggestion to manage anger, one of which is: "Scribble on an old newspaper using a lot of color and feeling. Scrunch it into a ball to toss at a blank wall."
^ Please don't get mad at your child if your wall is marked up as a result of this book.
Overall, the book has helpful information but should be monitored by a parent or therapist to help discuss the messages together.
5. Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe's and Evan's Coping Guide for Kids by Zoe and Evan Stern with a little help from their mom, Ellen Sue Stern
Age Range: 8 - 15 years
The authors of this book include a sister, brother, and their mother that experienced the divorce process. The parents appeared to have successfully co-parented without conflict. It contains a helpful revision from the authors ten years after the book was first released.
The book provides the authors' insight to divorce and even includes the father's "choice to spend his time with a man instead of a woman." It covers 20 subjects starting with the initial discussion about the divorce to post-divorce issues with step-parent tips. The book includes letters from children requesting advice and the author's answers.
The end of each topic offers "Your Turn" for the reader to relate with feelings and helpful suggestions. Other themes covered include feelings of guilt, anger, managing personal items between homes, planning birthdays, sharing thoughts with friends and parents, and a discussion on therapy. It was interesting that the kids did not want to attend counseling initially, but ten years later, strongly encouraged it to address any pain and anger. I recommend the book for older children and even young adults as well.
6. Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor
Age Range: 15 - 19 years
It took quite a bit of searching to find books for older teens. A recently divorced mother authored this book to provide advice to teens on how to handle divorce-related issues. At first, some of the examples came off a bit cynical toward men. It also seemed odd that the first chapter jumps right into depression issues. The advice seemed a bit unrealistic for the teen to discuss his mother's behavior with others like her doctor but not to talk with his father.
The book improves with helpful suggestions for various topics in later chapters. A useful summary is listed in "Points to Remember" at the end of each chapter. The book is geared toward older children with tips on avoiding bad decisions such as cheating, having sex, lending a car, smoking, alcohol, and offers alternatives for making better choices.
For teens, this website may also be a helpful resource: http://teenshealth.org/en/teens/
A website with doctor-approved information on health, emotions, and life including divorce may be found at the following link: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/divorce.html?WT.ac=ctg#catparents
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