No one needs a family lawyer to tell them that the children are the most vulnerable participant in any divorce. Young children derive their whole sense of themselves and their place in the world from their parents, so if Mum or Dad suddenly decamps in atmosphere of emotion and upset, the sense of upheaval can be huge.
That is not to suggest, of course, that divorce is never in a child’s best interests. Clearly it is better for any child to share two calm homes than live in a united one broiling with tension and animosity. But the children of divorcing parents need reassurance – reassurance that the divorce was not their fault, that the departing parent will still be there for them even if they no longer live in the same house. Kids are more resilient than we often give them credit for and will soon bounce back from the shock if their new life meets their needs and they understand – in some way – what has happened. But how do you explain something as inherently adult as divorce to a five or six year old?
That will never be an easy undertaking for the world’s anxious parents, but perhaps doing so is now a little easier than it used to be. For example, in December kids’ TV Sesame Street unveiled a new and carefully calibrated section on their site aimed at youngsters with divorcing parents. Last year also saw the publication of Divorce: What About Me? by Amy Kite, a rhyming guide to divorce for children aged three to nine.
And now practising clinical psychologist Dr. Leigh Weisz has published a similar tale. Kara Kangaroo’s Candy is aimed at the same age group and focused on reassuring its young audience that their parent’s divorce was not their fault and their parents still love them.
Dr Weisz told newspaper The Northbrook Star:
“Kids have egocentric thinking, which is normal. In the book, Kara has a temper tantrum in the grocery store and that night, she overhears her parents fighting, and thinks it was her behaviour that caused the fighting and ultimately the divorce.”
She explained the background to her book:
“I found in my work that I would be recommending books to parents, and they would tell me that the books were too simple, or the opposite, they would give so much information that the child wasn’t ready for it. Parents would have to self edit what they were reading to their kids.”
Of course, some parents make a fine job of reassuring their children and helping them through what can be a painful transition. But I’m sure many other less confident parents will find these and similar books a very valuable tool. Sometimes it isn’t just the kids who need reassurance!