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The best books to help children understand divorce

It is regularly quoted that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, but for the families behind the statistics it is incredibly new and unsettling. For children, it can be an especially confusing and worrying time. Reading books about divorce and separation with your child is a helpful way to support them through divorce, explain what’s happening now and prepare for the future.

By exploring the themes through the eyes of other children in age appropriate books they can better understand their circumstances and emotions, and feel reassured that they are not alone, it’s not that fault and that change can be for the better.

I have seen the positive impact reading can have on children dealing with the divorce process. Here is a list of books that I have used when working with clients and their children:

Books for older children (recommended 9+)

The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

When my parents split up they didn’t know what to do with me . . . My family always lived at Mulberry Cottage. Mum, Dad, me – and Radish, my Sylvanian rabbit. But now Mum lives with Bill the Baboon and his three kids. Dad lives with Carrie and her twins. And where do I live? I live out of a suitcase. One week with Mum’s new family, one week with Dad’s.

Deals with: having two homes, blended families

Goggle Eyes by Anne Fine

Kitty Killin is not only a good storyteller but also the World’s Greatest Expert when it comes to mothers having new and unwanted boyfriends. Particularly when there’s a danger they might turn into new and unwanted stepfathers…

Deals with: new partners, step-parents

Mum, Dad Can You Hear Me? By Despina Mavridou

Irene, is a 10-year-old girl whose parents are getting a divorce. In the midst of her confusion and helplessness, Irene turns to her diary to express her feelings and better process her parents’ divorce. With the help of her grandmother and her teddy bear she finds a way to make her parents listen to her.

Deals with: expressing emotions

Clean Break by Jacqueline Wilson

Em adores her funny, glamorous dad – who cares if he’s not her real father? He’s wonderful to her, and to her little brother Maxie and sister Vita. True to form at Christmas, Dad gives them fantastic presents, including a real emerald ring for his little Princess Em.

Unfortunately, he’s got another surprise in store – he’s leaving them. Will Dad’s well-meaning but chaotic attempts to keep seeing Em and the other children help the family come to terms with this new crisis? Or would they be better off with a clean break – just like Em’s arm?

Deals with: rejection, absence, step-parents

It’s not the end of the world by Judy Blume

Karen’s parents have always argued, and lately, they’ve been getting worse. But when her father announces that they’re going to get divorced, it seems as if Karen’s whole world will fall apart. Her brother, Jeff, blames their mum. Her kid sister, Amy, asks impossible questions and is scared that everyone she loves is going to leave. Karen just wants her parents to get back together. Gradually, she learns that this isn’t going to happen – and realizes that divorce is not the end of the world.

Deals with: family conflict and separation

Books for younger children (recommended 3-8 yrs)

Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray

A little boy tries to find a pot of parent glue to stick his mum and dad back together. His parents have come undone and he wants to mend their marriage, stick their smiles back on and make them better. This rhyming story is brilliantly told with a powerful message that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.

Deals with: coming to terms with parents’ separation

Where Did You Go Today? By Jenny Duke

A little girl goes to the park with her dad and has a fantastic time climbing, swinging and sliding: the play transports her to imaginary locations, like sliding down a snowy mountain, sailing on a roundabout ship out to sea and racing on a camel in the desert while bouncing on her ride-on playground animal. Finally, it’s time for dad to take her home and say a cheerful goodbye to her and mum.

Deals with: paternal separation

The Family Fairies by Rosemary Lucas

Rosemary’s primary aim was to provide the foundations for other adoptive families to help explain their own remarkable journeys… storytelling to help children understand that families come together in different ways.

Deals with: the adoption process

The Invisible String By Patrice Karst

The Invisible String offers a very simple and reassuring approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand.

Deals with: separation anxiety, reassurance

Two Homes by Claire Masurel

In this award-winning picture book classic about divorce, Alex has two homes – a home where Daddy lives and a home where Mummy lives. Alex has two front doors, two bedrooms and two very different favourite chairs. He has a toothbrush at Mummy’s and a toothbrush at Daddy’s. But whether Alex is with Mummy or Daddy, one thing stays the same: Alex is loved by them both – always. This gently reassuring story focuses on what is gained rather than what is lost when parents divorce, while the sensitive illustrations, depicting two unique homes in all their small details, firmly establish Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children – and parents – embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart.

Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes

The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman

What is a family? Once, it was said to be a father, mother, boy, girl, cat and dog living in a house with a garden. But as times have changed, families have changed too, and now there are almost as many kinds of families as colours of the rainbow – from a mum and dad or single parent to two mums or two dads, from a mixed-race family to children with different mums and dads, to families with a disabled member. This is a fresh, optimistic look through children’s eyes at today’s wide variety of family life: from homes, food, ways of celebrating, schools and holidays to getting around, jobs and housework, from extended families, languages and hobbies to pets and family trees.

Deals with: change in family dynamics, non-traditional families

Living with Mum and Living with Dad: My Two Homes By Melanie Walsh

Mum and Dad don’t live together any more. so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat. and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys. but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes.

Deals with: parents’ separation, moving between two homes

Books for very young children (2+)

I’ll never let you go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

When you aren’t sure, you’ll feel me near,
When you are scared, I will be here.
When you are high, when you are low,
I’ll be holding your hand and I’ll never let go.

A tender and heartfelt picture book. With reassuring words offering a message of unconditional love, and illustrations bursting with exuberance, warmth and humour.

Deals with: comfort and reassurance

Living with mum and living with dad: my two homes

Mum and Dad don’t live together any more, so sometimes this little girl lives with her mum and her cat, and sometimes she lives with her dad. She has two bedrooms and two sets of toys, but she takes her favourite toys with her wherever she goes. This simple, warm, lift-the-flap book with bold and colourful illustrations is a reassuring representation of separation for the youngest children. Melanie Walsh is sympathetically alive to the changes in routine that are familiar to many children who live with separate parents and are loved by both.

Deals with: moving between homes, changes to routine

The Family Book by Todd Parr

Some families have two moms or two dads. Some families have one parent instead of two. Some families live in a house by themselves. Some families share a house with other families. All families can help each other be strong!

The Family Book celebrates families and all the different varieties they come in. Whether they’re big or small, look alike or different, have a single parent or two, Todd Parr assures readers that every family is special in its own unique way.

Deals with: looking at different kinds of families

Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney

Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure. The story of Little and Big Nutbrown Hares’ efforts to express their love for each other.

Deals with: comfort and reassurance

Useful links:

The Book Trust: Best children’s books to help talk about divorce and separation

Get in touch

If you need support and advice on getting a divorce, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team at the details below or make an online enquiry

Helen is Managing Partner of the Stowe Family Law Altrincham, Liverpool , Chester and Crewe offices. She practises all areas of family law but her main areas of expertise are resolving private disputes involving children, and advising on advanced financial provision following divorce or dissolution.

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Comment(1)

  1. Medicaltipes.Com says:

    Readers follow the rabbit in this guide to living with separated parents as he travels back and forth to two different places and begins a journal to process his feelings.

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