For the past five years, over 7,000 children in Oregon have experienced divorce according to the Oregon Department of Human Services Center for Health Statistics. It is a time of great emotional upheaval for the entire family; however, children are uniquely affected lacking the maturity and developmental resources to understand. Often children feel angry, frightened, sad, and bewildered. However, according the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parental awareness and intervention can ameliorate the long term effects of divorce on children. There are many books available for parents (see Suggested Reading For Parents) however, it is often difficult to determine the books best suited to children. This list, compiled in part from the AAP suggested reading, is provided as a starting point for you to find books that will assist your child(ren) as they navigate this transition.
Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown. (New York: Little Brown, 1986) Geared to younger children, this book is expressively illustrated with accompanying succinct text, and an upbeat, straightforward treatment of a potentially confusing, traumatic childhood experiences. Amazon Review.
Let’s Talk About It: Divorce, by Fred Rogers, Judkis. Pittsburgh, PA: Family Communications Inc; 1996. Mister Rogers’s talent for calmly explaining scary emotional upheaval to young children shines in this volume of the “Let’s Talk About It.” series. The painful realignment of the family unit that takes place when parents divorce inevitably fills children with worry, anger, doubt and a host of other feelings. Rogers offers caring support and validation for readers working through such trauma, and he supplies concrete examples of ways kids can deal with the stress. Rogers wisely encourages adults to use his text as a jumping off point and tailor it to their own family’s particular circumstances. Ages 3-6. Publisher’s Weekly
It’s Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear by Vicki Lanksy. (Minnetonka, MN: Book Peddlers, 1998.) Here’s a children’s book and parenting tool rolled into one. It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear is a picture book designed to be read by parents to their children. Koko Bear’s parents are getting a divorce, and Koko, a preschool-aged unisex bear, isn’t happy about it. “I don’t like this divorce. I don’t want two homes,” Koko says. Koko Bear’s story doesn’t minimize kids’ pain, but it doesn’t wallow in it either. The message is positive: children are reassured that their feelings are natural, that their parents still love and will care for them, and that the divorce is not their fault. At the bottom of each page, there are bullet points for parents that give information and advice about what the kids are going through, and the best way to handle each issue as it arises. (Ages 3 to 7 and parents) Amazon review.
I Don’t Want To Talk About It by Jeanie Franz Ransom. Illustrated by Kathryn Kunz Finney. (Washington, DC: Magination, 2000.) Kindergarten-Grade 3-A competent piece of bibliotherapy aimed at helping children of divorce deal with their new, difficult, and conflicting emotions. Told by a young girl whose parents have just told her they are getting a divorce, the narrative then goes through the range of the child’s possible emotions, as the adults suggest how she might be feeling. She, in turn, imagines herself to be an animal that would adequately express her emotions. Full-page illustrations capably portray the images in the text, especially the metaphors of the animals that the girl uses to express her feelings. The book concludes with a two-page note to parents suggesting ways to deal with their children’s reactions. A worthy and appropriate addition to most parenting collections. School Library Journal (5-9)
Magic Words Handbook for Kids by Kent Winchester. (Albuquerque, NM: LadyBug Press, 1998.) The My Two Homes Magic Words Handbook for Kids is a book full of thoughts and sayings for children to help them deal with their parents’ divorce or separation. It is designed to help children, who are facing changes in their family, work through their most commonly encountered fears and emotions. It is also an invaluable rule book for parents. It contains all the basic rules of how loving parents should care for their children after divorce. (Ages 6-14) Amazon product description
Help! A Girl’s Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies by Nancy Holyoke. (Middleton, Wisconsin: Pleasant Company, 1999.) This book, addressed to older children and teenagers, features letters written over the years to the popular magazine American Girl about divorce. The answers are extremely helpful, kind, and specific. In fact, I think it’s a little unfair that it limits itself to girls – it’s a very good book that both genders could benefit from reading. (Ages 8-15)
How It Feels When Parents Divorce by Jill Krementz. (New York: Knopf, 1984.) Nineteen children, ranging in age from seven to sixteen, talk about their experiences with divorce. “Jill Krementz’s book uses two important techniques for uncovering the issues for children of divorce — her soul-searching pictures of the children and her sensitive interviews. Since 58 percent of children in the United States will live in single-parent families, their feelings should be a critical, burning issue for all of us. The issues as they see them are poignant and devastatingly incisive in the telling. That they all pay a price — of having to assume the responsibility for family breakup, of having to wonder whether family relationships are even a good idea — comes through loud and clear. That the price can be balanced in some ways by parents who do not use the child as a “football,” but maintain good relationships with each other, is demonstrated as well. I feel that parents can certainly benefit, as can children, from learning about how to live with the losses of a divorce. The voices of these children are strong and vital. Their stories show how achingly responsive they are to such a caring, sensitive person as Ms. Krementz. This is a beautiful book and one we should all read.” Dr. T. Berry Brazelton (Ages 10-19)
How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay by Julia Alvarez. (New York: Knopf, 2001.) With her brilliantly hued flower-print dresses, her maracas and tambor, and the migrating beauty mark over her lip-sticked mouth, Tia Lola stands out in Vermont like a tropical bird in a snowstorm. Her nephew, 10-year-old Miguel, just wants to fit in to his new home. He and his mother and sister have just moved here from New York following his parents’ divorce. With his black hair and brown skin, it’s hard enough already without the flamboyant antics of his friendly, nutty aunt, visiting from the Dominican Republic. But even while she is dancing her meringues in front of his new friends and painting the white farmhouse purple, Tia Lola is also weaving a magical spell of love and support that Miguel and his wounded family sorely need. Miguel’s growing appreciation for his crazy aunt’s ways, and the entire town’s admiration and respect for an outsider who, without even speaking the same language, wins the hearts of all, is a funny, uplifting story. – Amazon Review (With Spanish words, this book features the culture of the Dominican Republic, where Miguel’s parents are from) (Ages 10-14)
When Your Parents Split Up…How to Keep Yourself Together by Alys Swan-Jackson. With material from Lynn Rosenfield and Joan Shapiro. (New York: Price Stern Sloan, 1997.) While we could not locate this book, one reviewer noted that it “has just the right balance of guidance from professionals and from kids. …a sort of Dinosaur’s Divorce for older kids: it offers specific, simple advice on how to deal with problems that most kids are going through during a divorce. The young people interviewed are a variety of ages and have many different views and situations, giving the book a balanced perspective.” (Ages 12-19)
How to Survive Your Parents’ Divorce: Kids’ Advice to Kids. Kimball, G. Chico, CA: Equality Press; 1994”A great book of ideas, written from the expertise of kids who’ve experienced divorce. One-of-a-kind.” According to Scientific American “Full of great advice for kids, and parents too. In many ways, it’s a peer support group in print.” — Elizabeth McGonagle, school social worker, founder of Banana Splits, NY. (Ages 13-19)
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.” Zoe and Evan Stern know firsthand how it feels when your parents divorce. When their parents split they knew their lives would change but they didn’t know how. A few years later, when they were 15 and 13 years old, they decided to share their experience in this positive and practical guide for kids. With some help from their mom, Zoe and Evan write about topics like guilt, anger, fear, adjusting to different rules in different houses, dealing with special occasions like birthdays, adapting to stepparents and blended families, and much more. Including updates from grown-up Zoe and Evan 10 years later, this honest guide will reassure children of divorce that, though it may seem it sometimes, it’s not the end of the world. “Here is a great resource for tweens and teens…from two of their own. Zoe and Evan give a helpful perspective to other kids that will aid them with their own divorce experiences. Their words and advice ring true.–VICKI LANSKY
It’s Not the End of the World. Blume, J. Scarsdale, NY: Bradbury Press; 1972. From the author of Blubber, and Maybe I Won’t, this book tells the story of Karen Newman, who has decided she’ll never get married. Just look at her parents. All they do is fight. And now Karen’s dad has moved out of the house and he and her mom are talking about divorce. Her older brother has locked himself away in his room, her little sister is a mess, and she can’t bring herself to talk about any of it with her best friend. She’s never felt so alone. Yet in spite of everything Karen is sure she can set things right again if only she can get her parents together in the same room. Or will her fantasy backfire?
The Divorce Express. Danziger, P. New York, NY: Delacorte Press; 1982. This story tells the tale of Phoebe, who must leave her New York City apartment and friends, to move to the country with her dad, and take the bus every weekend to visit her mom in the city. Told from a child’s perspective as she goes to ninth grade in a new school, and sees her father go on dates. It’s a hectic life with no time to feel she really belongs with the kids in either place. Then, just when Phoebe gets a handle on juggling the pieces of her life, her mother makes a decision that will change everything again. Can phoebe be herself and still be part of both her parents’ worlds? (Young Adult)
How Do I Feel About My Stepfamily? Johnson J, O’Neill C. Brookfield, CT: Copper Beech Books; 1998. On the first page of this picture book, readers are introduced to Molly, Tom, Ali, and Gary. Throughout the book these four children explain their feelings about being part of a stepfamily and how they have dealt with various situations, such as getting along with stepsiblings and deciding what to call their stepparents. Many different emotions are explored, including anger, bitterness, loneliness, fear, confusion, and jealousy. Full-color photographs and colorful cartoon drawings complete with dialogue balloons, are included. Johnson offers a more realistic approach than Laurene Krasny Brown’s Dinosaurs Divorce (Little, Brown, 1986), which portrays dinosaur children dealing with many of the aforementioned emotions. A good offering for school counselors or children of stepfamilies. School Library Journal ( 6-10)
Surviging Your Parents’ Divorce, Charles Boeckman. Franklin Watts, 1980. Advice for surviving parents’ divorce. Deals with custody, child support, visitation rights, guilt, loneliness, remarriage, step relatives, and organizations to turn to for help.
Coping When Your Family Falls Apart, Booher, D. Jullian Messner, 1979. A guide for young people whose parents are divorcing, emphasizing a positive attitude and growth toward a new life.
The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce, Gardner, R. Bantam Books 1970A child psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and veteran counselor of divorced families, Dr. Gardner offers warm reassurance and honest answers to questions frequently asked by children of divorced parents. If your parents fuss at you does it mean they don’t love you? How can you tell if your father loves you, if he lives in another city? Are you “bad” when you get angry with your mother or father? Why is it a mistake to talk to one parent about another? Do you blame yourself for your parents’ divorce? This warm and honest book provides reassuring answers to these and many more crucial questions children ask about divorce. Amazon Reviews