Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Publisher's Summary: Join Mia and her stuffed giraffe Stuart as they explain what separation and divorce is and how it affects a kid’s day-to-day life. Using an illustrated calendar to explain how divorce affects a child’s daily routine, What Happens When [Moms Divorce/ Dads Divorce/ Parents Get Divorced] focuses on the child’s experience and removes the unknowns from the equation. This book takes the proven therapy technique of using a custody calendar and brings it to book form, helping parents show kids exactly what to expect.
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: These books are an excellent first introduction to the many changes that come with divorce, and they gently scaffold early conversations about a child’s fears and feelings about these changes while introducing a visual calendar to help a child track when they will be at each parent’s home. The books come in three nearly-identical versions featuring two moms, two dads, and a mom and a dad. The books are best for a child who will be spending time with both of their parents, but they don’t assume 50/50 shared custody.
Evidence-Based Practices: Psychoeducation
Tone: Informative, validating, a bit funny
Story Quality: These books are written clearly, compassionately, and in developmentally-appropriate language. There is a bit of humor added through speech bubbles in the illustrations which gently lighten up a heavy topic.
Illustrations: The illustrations look like they were hand-drawn with MS Paint or a similar software. They are a bit charming in their imprecision.
Representation: Mia is a girl with light brown skin and medium brown hair, and she has a stuffed giraffe, Stuart, who contributes to the story’s dialogue. In each book, one of Mia’s parents has brown skin and black hair, and one of her parents is White with red hair. The parents’ genders vary depending on the version of the book. What Happens When Moms Divorce is about two moms divorcing; What Happens When Dads Divorce is about two dads; What Happens When Parents Get Divorced features a dad with brown skin and black hair and a White mom. The three versions are otherwise identical. The books assume some level of shared custody. They state that when parents divorce, “they move into two different houses… Sometimes each parent gets a new place to live, and sometimes only one does. The kids spend some of the time at one house, and some of the time at the other house. Some kids spend the same amount of time with each parent. Other kids live with one parent most of the time and visit the other parent.” Before reading one of these books to a child, it is imperative that their custody situation fits with this description.
Psychological Practices: These books provide a basic description of what divorce is (“Divorce is when parents decide not to be married anymore, and they live in two different houses”) and address common worries that many children have when they first learn that their parents are divorcing, such as whether it is their fault (“Divorce is never, ever a kid’s fault”), what is going to happen to them if their parents live in different places, and whether their parents will stop loving them one day (“A parent’s love for their kids is forever, and nothing you do, good or bad, can change that”). The books introduce the use of a visual calendar of which days a child will be at which parent’s home. This intervention can help kids weather the big changes that come with divorce by providing more of a sense of predictability. The books also acknowledge the many, often confusing feelings that children feel when parents get divorced (“You might get angry or sad or worried because it’s different now, and you’re wondering if it’s different good or different bad. It might be a little bit of both”), and they remind children that although many things are changing, many things will also stay the same. The books end by Mia reminding Stuart that “even the biggest feelings don’t last forever.”