I Don’t Want to Talk About It
A story about divorce for young children
Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom
Illustrated by Kathryn Kunz Finney
28 pages • Published 2000 (Magination Press)
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Publisher's Summary: “When a child’s parents tell her they have decided to divorce, the last thing she wants to do is talk about it. Instead, she wants to roar as loud as a lion so she can’t hear their painful words, or turn into a fish and hide her tears in the sea, or even become a bird and fly away. But with her mother and father’s help, she starts to consider what life will be like after divorce and learns that although some things will change, many other things will remain the same. Most importantly, she realizes that although her parents may not agree about much, one thing they do agree on is that they both love her very much and will always be her mom and dad.”
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: This book uses animal metaphors to help a child who doesn’t want to talk express their painful feelings about their parents' divorce. It’s best for children who already have a basic understanding of divorce and the changes that will be happening or have recently happened in their family. This book is exclusively for families with divorcing/ separating parents who are planning to share custody.
Would a child like it? Many children reading this book with their parents will relate to the main character and initially resist this book because they don’t want to talk about this painful topic. After a page or two, though, I think many kids will connect with this book, even if they don’t particularly like it. It might be a book parents read with kids a few pages at a time since the content is emotionally difficult.
Evidence-Based Practices: Emotional Literacy
Tone: Begins somber, turns a bit irreverent (the girl expresses anger and opposition to her parents, which may be welcome and validating to kids who relate), and ends on a hopeful note.
Story Quality: The bulk of the story is fairly captivating and real. The little girl’s reactions are messy and relatable, and the animal metaphors are vivid. The ending of the story feels slightly less authentic (the girl is a bit too quickly reassured), but it never gets overly preachy or unrealistic.
Illustrations: Fantastical, vivid illustrations
Representation: The parents and child are White, and the parents appear to be heterosexual. The main character is a girl. The homes portrayed appear to be single family homes in a suburban/rural area, and there is no financial hardship portrayed. Of note, the ending concludes with a shared custody arrangement– “We’ll work it out so that you’ll be spending time with both of us every week.” Although this may be the outcome for some families, it doesn’t reflect every family’s situation and could be painful for a child (and parent) whose upcoming reality isn’t going to look that way.
Psychological Practices: This book provides a nice example of parents attempting to name and validate their daughter’s thoughts and feelings. The parents don’t try to “fix” their daughter’s feelings, and their validation allows her to open up and ask questions about things she’s worried about. It’s also a good reminder to parents that their child’s behavior often provides clues to their feelings (e.g., a “roar” might suggest their child is feeling scared!) and that when a child doesn’t want to talk about something, it doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. If parents want a script of sorts, this book is a good place to start. It also encourages parents to maintain routines and special activities (e.g., cooking with dad, gardening with mom), which are important ways to support children through any difficult transition, divorce included.
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