Trying to explain difficult life experiences (death, separation/divorce, serious illness, etc.) to your children can be intimidating and overwhelming. However, quality children's books can help. I remember when my mother died (I was nine years old) my Dad gave me You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye. That book truly helped me navigate through some of the feelings I was having. It also made me understand that I was not the only child who had experienced the death of her mother.
Naturally, when I realized it was time to explain to my children that my husband and I were separating I wanted to find the perfect books for each of them. After researching lots of different books, the following are the ones I chose.
For Samantha (9 years old)
A Smart Girl's Guide to Her Parents' Divorce: How to Land on Your Feet When Your World Turns Upside Down (American Girl)
Short chapters illustrated with bright cartoon drawings cover many important concerns and offer explanations of the divorce process. Topics range from how to deal with negative emotions, family changes, and new living arrangements, to tougher issues such as violence and financial troubles. The text has a compassionate tone, and sprinkled throughout are answers to questions that readers might have as well as snippets of advice from girls who have found what works for them. A few write-in quizzes are included. This book promises to be a helpful guide. School Library Journal
Samantha has read and enjoyed many of the American Girl "Smart Girl" guide books. This one was no exception. She read it cover to cover in one weekend. The advice and insight this book offers is worded and explained in terms that adolescent girls can easily understand. It is also a great resource for girls to keep so that when future situations or problems arise they can use the book to help them navigate. I highly recommend this book to girls ages 9-12 and parents, as well. I think it is valuable tool for parents because it is a reminder of what separation and divorce look like from their daughter's perspective.
For Gracen (7 years old)
My Mom and Dad Don't Live Together Anymore: A Drawing Book for Children of Separated or Divorced Parents
Product Description ~ Some things are easier to say with pictures. When parents decide to separate or divorce, children need ways to sort through all the feelings, thoughts, and worries they are facing. This drawing book encourages kids to explore their inner world through both pictures and words, helping them to understand themselves and feel better during a difficult time of change.
Gracen loves to draw and color, so this book was the perfect choice for her. She decided to really take her time on all of the illustrations because she wants to keep the book forever. I like this book because discussing the pages, and what she should draw on each, helped Gracen open up and share her feelings with me. This book is a great choice for non-readers and for children who have difficulty putting words to their emotions.
For Wes (4 years old)
It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce
Amazon.com Review ~ How do you talk to your children about your divorce? How can you best handle their responses? 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. 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)
I used this book when telling Wes that his Dad and I were separating. It made the extremely difficult task a lot easier for me. It also made a difficult-to-understand situation a little more understandable for Wes. Wes really identified with Koko the preschool-aged bear in the story. He asked lots of questions about Koko and his bear parents. Wes has asked me and his sisters to read this book to him several times over the past few weeks. I believe it is a comfort to him.