Why Use Books With Children During Divorce?
Maridith Jackson, Human Development and Family Studies Graduate Assistant, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
The divorce process can be a difficult time for both parents and the children involved. It is a time of many transitions. There may be changes in feelings, friends, family, and home life. Parents need to communicate with their child(ren) during and about these changes taking place. One way to encourage both communication and a strengthening of the parent-child relationship is through the use of books. Through reading and parent-child discussing the book's content, the child(ren):
1. Learn s/he is not alone. Reading about other
children going through the same situations will
alleviate feelings of isolation or of being an outsider.
2. Identify with characters in a way that s/he
understands and be able to relate to characters,
particularly those of the same gender.
3. Gain insight and knowledge and apply that
knowledge to real life. This teaches the child ways of
coping with the divorce.
The use of books, versus discussion only, allows the
child to use imagination. Reading stories about the
lives of others can be much easier on the child rather
than direct conversation. The books can serve as a
channel to release tension. Feelings that are very
personal for the child can be discussed using characters
in a book, making it easier for the child to talk about.
To reap the full benefits, you must discuss the content
of the books with your children. This follow-up is
important. Discussing the books with your child will
allow you to understand more about what your child is
going through. It will also give your child a safe way
to ask questions and stimulate further conversation. Not
only will the use of books help the child learn ways of
coping and dealing with divorce, but your child will
also benefit in other ways. Your child will:
- learn to enjoy reading, not only about self-help issues, but also become more interested in reading in general;
- better understand human behavior through the exposure of a variety of characters;
- increase awareness of others and their ways of living; be able to relate to others.
The age of your child will make a difference in how much he or she will understand about the divorce. You must be sure that the books you choose are appropriate for the age of your child. Libraries and publishers commonly organize books with the following classifications:
- JE is used for picture books, up until the age a child learns to read
- J is for new readers up until about 8th grade
- YA is for young adults or teens
Around infancy to about six years, the child will
need you to read the books to him or her. You may also
need to ask the child questions about his or her
feelings in order to stimulate conversation, being sure
that you do not ask questions in a way that lead to a
specific answer. For example, you may ask, "How does it
make you feel when you know that you will be living in
two different houses? instead of, "Are you sad that
mommy and daddy don’t live together anymore?
Around the ages seven to twelve, the child may be
able to read on his or her own. Either way, you still
need to discuss the contents of the book with your
child. They will be better able to communicate and
describe how they are feeling at this age, so take
advantage of that and allow your child to express his or
her own feelings about the divorce.
At thirteen years of age and older, the child will be
able to read the books alone. Even so, try to skim
through the pages beforehand, and always talk to the
child about the content of the book. Even if the child
appears to not want to discuss issues, let him or her
know that you are always available to talk.
During the various shifts in lifestyle and role responsibility that take place during the divorce process, parents must maintain open communication with their children. Appropriate books can be used as tools to ease this time of difficulty.
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Last Updated 05/12/2009