A lovely member of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group asked the other day about books for young children which help to explain divorce. I had done a post several year ago on this topic but since that time a few other books have come across my desk at work which I feel need to be added. I’ve spoken about them so many times before, but the ‘Big Hug’ series are my go-to books these days for dealing with the big feelings in homes and schools.
Families come in all forms and, over the years, I’ve shared many books which encompass all sorts of family’s experiences including; adoption; same-sex parents and grief (and hasn’t that topic rather come to the forefront for me now). The books below deal with separation/divorce and children living in two homes. It is also worth looking at my books on diversity and my books on feelings – as all these books will be of benefit.
To add these books to your home, school or library collection click on covers or title links.
Books give us, and our children, the words when we have none. When parents separate, children experience a range of emotions that they may never have had to deal with before; to be able to seek solace in a book that reflects their circumstances is powerful indeed. A carefully gifted book can provide young minds with words which give names to their own feelings and help them to navigate their way through murky waters to a place of acceptance and understanding. Reading these books with your children may initiate some of the most important conversations you ever have with your child.
‘Two Nests’ (early childhood – lower primary)
Two little birds build a nest together, and the female lays an egg. Out hatches baby bird, and they are all as happy as can be. Until they start to squabble and argue, and the nest is not so happy after all. The solution is for the birds to build another nest in the tree, one for Mummy Bird and one for Daddy Bird and Baby Bird can live in both nests and go between the two as often as he wishes. Written in rhyme, and with great sensitivity, this is a lovely story to help explain to very young children why family separation is sometimes necessary – and to show that it can lead to happiness for everyone. A unique story about family separation, for very young children. ‘The Big Hug’ series (early childhood – ageless)
Love is a special and growing thing. It’s a little bit like a tree – a special magical tree – that you can climb up into, nest comfortably in its big branches, and safely watch the world go by. Love can come in different shapes and sizes. Like a tree, love can grow and grow…
Cakes are made from many different ingredients to create something unique, delicious and amazing. A family is a lot like a cake. Families come in all shapes and sizes. They are the people who help us feel that we belong. Families give us help, support and love… even when we are apart from them. When we are with our family, we feel like we are home.
‘Mum and Dad Glue’ (early childhood – middle primary)
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. The central message is that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.
‘Just the Way We Are’ (early childhood – lower primary)
The book takes us through a number of different characters and their family form; mum and dad; several generations under one roof; parents who work or don’t work; two dads; single parents; guardians. Each story of a family ends with beautiful lines such as, ‘we might be different from your family, buts that nothing to be worried about. You see, all families aren’t the same and I think mine might be perfect…JUST THE WAY WE ARE’.
‘Fred Stays with Me’ (lower primary)
‘Fred Stays with Me’ is an award-winning story that follows a young girl who turns to the one constant in her life, her dog Fred, in the face of her parents’ divorce.
In this poignant but not overly sentimental story, Coffelt’s accessible and kid-friendly language alongside Tusa’s charming artwork create a light, cheerful, and reassuring mood that will comfort any child who has two homes.
‘Was It the Chocolate Pudding?’ (lower primary – middle primary)
Readers learn about divorce, and receive age-appropriate explanations of what is happening regarding such issues as single-family homes and joint custody. But most importantly, the narrator explains that divorce is not the child’s fault – it is a grown-up problem. The story emphasizes the need for communication between parent and child and provides an age-appropriate explanation of what is really happening.
‘The Invisible String’ (early childhood – lower primary)
Not specifically about divorce, ‘The Invisible String’ can be used to deal with all sorts of family separation.A story that teaches of the tie that really binds. Mums (and Dads) feel the tug whenever kids give it; and kids feel the tug that comes right back: the Invisible String reaches from heart to heart. Whether it’s a loved one far away, or a parent in the next room, this delightful book illustrates a new way to cope with something all children and parents confront sooner or later; a child’s fear of loneliness and separation. ‘Living with Mum and Living with Dad’ (early childhood – lower primary)
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.
‘My Family’s Changing’ (early childhood – lower primary)
The author of this book is a psychotherapist and counsellor and helps children to face their fears, worries and questions when their family is going through a break-up. A special feature, “What About You?” sidebars appear frequently with questions directed at the child reading the book. The questions encourage children to explore their own feeling about the situation.
‘Two of Everything’ (out of print) (early childhood – middle primary)
Demetrius and Paula Ogglebutt are two perfectly beautiful children, but they have a pair of parents who do nothing but argue, bicker and clash. In fact, Demetrius and Paula begin to worry that it’s all their fault, which leaves them feeling very sad and confused. So they call a meeting at school to see if anyone else is in the same parental predicament – and it turns out they’re not alone! The result is a decision that has everyone in agreement – an ‘un-wedding’!
‘Two Homes’ (early childhood – lower primary)
At Mummy’s house, Alex has a soft chair. At Daddy’s house, Alex has a rocking chair. In each home, Alex also has a special bedroom and lots of friends to play with. But whether Alex is with Mummy or with Daddy, one thing always stays the same – Alex is loved. The gently reassuring text 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.‘The Big Split’ (lower – middle primary)
‘Raymie Nightingale’ (middle primary – lower secondary)
Oh my glory this book is divine! Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father – who has run away with a dental hygienist – will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.
To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton, but she has to compete with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante with her show-business background and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship – and challenge them to come to each other’s rescue in unexpected ways.‘It’s Not the End of the World’ (young adult)
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. ‘It’s Not the End of the World’ is Judy Blume’s classic young adult novel about family separation.
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