Books to read to kids:
Two Homes by Claire Masurel
Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh
Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families
Was It the Chocolate Pudding?: A Story For Little Kids About Divorce by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo
My Family's Changing (A First Look At Series) by Pat Thomas
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1) Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott JD MEd
For anyone going through a tough break-up and are having trouble letting go.
3) The Truth About Children and Divorce
Great book that helps both parents keep your eyes on what's important: your kids
4) Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, 3rd Edition (Rebuilding Books; For Divorce and Beyond) by Bruce Fisher
Another book that helps guide you through the process of ending a relationship and helping you become fully accountable for yourself and your happiness
5) The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson
Very appropriate for people who were suddenly left or abandoned or traumatized by the divorce. Some people feel this book is a life saver. She runs workshops around the country.
6) When He Leaves: Help and Hope for Hurting Wives by Kari West and Noelle Quinn
A divorce book that tells the story of two women (middle aged, with kids, facing divorce from their husbands). A good book for people who need to feel that there are other people out there who have gone through similar pain. Has a somewhat Christian bent to it but it is not overwhelming for the most part. A good book for someone raised in a traditional, Christian home and is now facing divorce.
7) Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl - A Woman's Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov
A pretty funny book about dating. Mostly, it is a book about holding your own, taking care of yourself, and setting clear limits when dating.
8) Falling Apart in One Little Piece by Stacy Morrison
9) One Optimist's Journey Through the Hell of Divorce by Stacy Morrison
10) I, Amber Brown by Paula Danzinger
What parents say: "My daughter and I just finished reading a really sweet and thoughtful book that I thought folks on the list might like. It's a chapter book called 'I, Amber Brown' by Paula Danziger, and it's about a fourth-grade girl whose parents split up a year earlier; when the book begins, her father moves back to town and she begins the joint-custody juggle, and is also integrating her mother's new husband-to-be into the family. It's a really wonderful depiction of how a kid can feel torn between her parents, even when the parents are well-meaning and collaborating as best they can. I read it aloud to my first grader and she was riveted by it. It seems like it'd be great for kids aged 6-10 or who have gone through or are going through parental separation. Also, I think it's one of the later books in the Amber Brown series so the earlier ones might deal with the actual divorce (we'll find out as I've already put them in our library queue!).
11) A Handbook of Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives, edited by Linda Gunsberg and Paul Hymowitz
12) Why Did You Have to Get a Divorce? And When Can I Get a Hamster? by Anthony E. Wolf (Author)
13) Untamed by Glennon Doyle
What parents say: "If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend you reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She has a lot in there about the perception of what makes a good mother and how women are conditioned to feel grateful in a marriage no matter the dynamics of the relationship. I think it may help you with the feelings of prioritizing your happiness over your child's emotional health (she takes a hard line that this is a myth) and it's worthwhile for that."
A PSP member shares her notes from the book, Truth about Children and Divorce by Robert E. Emery:
I separately recommended the book below and had taken some notes on the book since it was a library book that I was about to return, so below are my notes in case helpful to anyone. And, just for fun, I'm going to post my notes on another book that I found really useful on whether or not to separate. The notes include suggested custody plans depending on type of divorce (so far my separation is amicable/cooperative but we are still living together and haven't told our son or most friends whose kids might tell our son and some family):
A. Types of separations/divorces – 1. Cooperative, 2. Distant, 3. Angry
B. Kids bills of rights in separation/divorce:
- Right to love and be loved by both parents without feeling guilt or disapproval
- Right to be protected from parents’ anger with each other
- Right to be kept out of the middle of parents’ conflict, including right not to pick sides, carry messages or hear complaints about the other parent
- Right not to have to choose one parent over the other
- Right not to have to be responsible for burden of either parent’s emotional problems
- Right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect life (e.g., when one parent will move or get remarried)
- Right to reasonable financial support during childhood and through college years
- Right to have/express feelings and to have both parents listen to how feels
- Right to have life as close as possible to what would have been if parents stayed together
- Right to be a kid
C. What to tell kids – basic points:
- Keep it simple
- Emphasize that both parents love them and this isn’t their fault
- FOCUS ON THEIR ISSUES AND CONCERNS NOT OURS
- Say what is happening and suggest how they may feel or how allowed to feel (i.e., any way they wish)
- Specifics as to what will happen, how will work
- Encourage to ask questions now or later – don’t press for now or try to answer too many unasked questions
a. Separation on the table - E.g., we’re having serious problems getting along, often really unhappy, which is painful and scary for us, so must be painful and scary for you to hear about this now, not sure what is going to happen but considering separation, whatever happens we’ll always be your mom and dad; Whatever happens we both love you and you’re a kid and we will always take care of you, and we’re adults and can take care of ourselves, our unhappiness is a grown-up problem and we’ll deal with it, but it’s an important problem and we know that our problems affect you, not just us, we want to know how you feel, you can talk with either of us anytime
b. Getting separated or divorced
i. ages 6-8 – you know we have been having a lot of problems getting along? Well, we have some sad news for you – we have decided we’re not happy living together and we don’t want to live together, we’re sorry to have to tell you this but we’re getting separated, we’re both sad about this but think that we will feel better in some ways too. We know you must be sad and scared to hear this news, and you may be mad at us too. However you feel we want you to be able to talk to us about your feelings. Right now you should know that dad is going to get a separate place in x weeks, he’ll show it to you in x days, mom will stay here and school, neighborhood etc. won’t change and you’ll see us almost every day, we have worked out a schedule where you’ll spend (2 days/week at house, 2 with dad and alternating weekends). We know these are a lot of changes and we’re telling you a lot, we’ll have time to talk more alone soon but one thing we want you to understand right now – we both love you very much and we want you to keep loving us both the way you always have, even though we’re going to be living in different houses.
ii. ages 9-12 – about the same as 6-8, although ages 9-12 will want to know who is to blame but avoid the urge to blame
D. When to tell – for most kids, 1-2 months is more than enough time to know of pending separation if older, a few weeks is enough for school-age kids
E. Mediation vs. court – much better outcome if mediate not litigate
F. Custody – joint is best and worst (lots of coordination, so best when parents can coordinate rules, schedules, schooling and transitions, worst when puts kids in parents’ war zone)
- Think of parenting plan initially as temporary arrangement to see how kids adjust to schedule and not just guess – may take a few months to tweak or revisit entirely
- Fine to listen to kids’ input about the schedule but final decision is parent’s responsibility, not the child’s (careful asking for input so don’t inadvertently make child feel like being asked to choose between parents)
- Joint physical custody only if cooperative divorce, but only 5-10% of divorced families succeed in maintaining joint physical custody schedule (given the coordination required)Try to keep same schedule week to week (e.g., if it’s Thursday I’m at dad’s) – easier for kids
- Simplicity is key
- Sample options
i. Ages 6-9 - cooperative divorce options could be Mon/Tues one parent, Wed/Thurs other parent then alternating weekends Fri-Sun; OR Wed evening to Sat afternoon or Sun AM one parent, other half week with the other (distant and angry divorce options include every other weekend Thurs night to late Sun afternoon and other Thurs evening; or every other weekend and one night/week)
ii. Ages 10-12 - cooperative divorce options could be alternating weeks or Wed evening to Sat afternoon or Sun AM one parent, other half week with the other
iii. Ages 13-18 – kids may need one house as headquarters and often kids want to make a change and are more vocal about making a change; cooperative divorce options could be alternating weeks or Wed evening to Sat afternoon or Sun AM one parent, other half week with the other (more distant might be every other weekend and one weeknight)
- Changes– anticipate future changes and disputes (normal); if need to change, keep communication brief and factual
- Holidays – should finalize summer vacation dates by 4/1 or 5/1; typical for mother’s day with mom, father’s day with dad, maybe winter break divide in half, or can rotate year to year, one exception to separate is birthday – attending same birthday party or other important event that both want to attend is great practice for other important events.
- Communications – best to establish method of routinely communicating about parenting with ex (e.g., email, text, phone etc.)
G. Therapy – Group therapy isn’t a bad idea; Most kids don’t need therapy right after separation, unless conflicts or kids out of control, decision about therapy can probably wait months or longer; what kids really need in months post-separation and during childhood isn’t so much weekly therapy session as clear, consistent, loving and authoritative parenting daily
H. Resiliency - Most kids are resilient about divorce; Statistics – almost 75% of kids believe would be a different person if parents stayed together, about ½ worried about big events with both parents present, almost ½ thought had harder childhood than most people, about 45% said divorce still caused struggles for them and almost 1/3 wondered if dad even loved them; Concerns about kids going for therapy and rates go up with separation/divorce – might not be a bad thing since means getting help, also doesn’t necessarily mean special problems but extra care around the event and also can mean parents not kids have the problems.
A PSP member shares her notes from the book:
Here are my notes from the other book i found really interesting and a bit counter-intuitive, about whether to separate and showing research I found reassuring:
- Children self-esteem is heavily dependent on 3 factors:
- How much conflict between parents
- How much interest parents take in their kids
- Income level of family in comparison to their friends’ and relatives’ families
- Kids – key is the amount of disagreement and disrespect between parents (open or covert) to which children are exposed – exposure to ongoing conflict and disrespect are main factors that determine severity of kids’ problems in and out of school; parental conflict is key factor working against kids’ positive adjustment (whether or not parents are separated or divorced, or intact)
- After a period of transition most children from divorced families generally do as well or even better in school (both academically and behaviorally) as kids from unhappy, intact families – in huge study by Hetherington found that 2-3 years post-divorce, kids in divorced one-parent households are doing better with half as many behavior problems than kids in unhappy intact families
- Divorce kids’ greatest yearnings is desire to return to “normal” life – but definition of normal differs for each person; in years pre-separation many kids refuse to admit how unhappy they are and how bad home situation is, get used to day-to-day unhappiness and conflict, find small moments of happiness and cling to that so an tell themselves things are normal, and call stability normal, which helps them to ignore the conflict; after transition period kids’ yearnings change; key is to provide as much continuity post-separation as possible – plan to maintain routines, see extended family on both sides
- Best to reassure kids that things will be all right, that both parents will provide kid with good/loving homes and that arguing will diminish;
- If child rejects a parent, rarely permanent state of affairs and child usually comes around in time
- If separate overcome shame and get sympathetic version of reasons for breakdown of marriage out to family and friends quickly and be open with friends and relatives; most everyone who initiates a divorce does not regret it and most people regret having waited so long; divorce can break the cycle of conflict and humiliation and allow healing in a kid’s war-ravaged psyche; Abigail Stewart’s study in 2000 shows at least 85% of divorce cases are settled out of court and NOT litigated
Related reading on PSP: