Read your child this book to support them through your divorce
Our Divorce team are often met with concerns and worry from clients when embarking on the separation process about how their children will be affected. We have teamed up with local author, Clare Helen Welsh, to provide copies of her book, Everything Changes, to our clients to help them open a conversation with their children and support the whole family to move forward positively. Read Clare's guest blog below.
Divorce can be a hard for children to process. It can be hard for everyone to process. Telling a child that their parents are splitting up might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
That’s why I wrote ‘Everything Changes' – a picture book that explores the difficult feelings that children might experience when their parents can’t live together anymore, and a marriage breaks down. ‘Everything Changes’ is a sensitively told tale of a child who feels sad, worried and angry when Mummy and Daddy split up. But as time passes and seasons change, it seems the hard times might not always be so hard. It’s a fictional story that adults can use to open discussion.
How to talk to children about divorce almost definitely depends on the age of the child, the child’s personality, and the facts surrounding the relationship, as well as how the adults involved are handling things. However, one thing that applies to all divorce is change – some big, some small, but changes are inevitable and often the cause of much worry.
Stories can help us process change and remind us that we are not alone in the challenges we face. The right book can be a gateway into a safer world, where it might be easier to talk about and unravel emotions because we are in another character’s story. They also serve as a discussion starter, helping children communicate how they feel, which is a healthy first step to managing a problem. In short, they are a place to explore the things that challenge us the most.
I’ve put together some top tips for using 'Everything Changes' at this especially difficult time.
• Read the book alone before sharing it with a child. This will give you time to process the themes and ensure you are prepared to use the story therapeutically.
• Pick a moment that feels right and get comfortable. Try to be as relaxed as possible, like you would during any story.
• Show you are interested by making positive comments about what the child sees and hears, and to keep the conversation going. “I see it too!” “And then?” “She does look sad.”
• Reflect and use emotional labelling; “You seem worried/ anxious/ upset…” “This feels important to you.”
• Encourage your child’s independence and problem-solving skills by responding to their questions with open-ended questions. For example, “That’s a good question.” “Why do you think the child is crying?” How, which, what, where and who questions are good, as well.
• Always comment positively and value a child’s responses, even if you don’t necessarily agree. This validates their feelings and will encourage them to share other things with you.
• Be led by the child, at their own pace and time, so that they have the control. If they aren’t particularly talkative, don’t push it. If they don’t want to talk, just enjoy the story.
• Continually offer love and reassurance. What children need to know most of all is that despite the changes ahead, they are loved. With the love and support from important people, we can overcome the most insurmountable of challenges.
Of course, there are no easy fixes. But recognising and communicating how we feel is an important first step. Encouraging your child to talk about your divorce will mean they are processing it and not hiding their feelings away. It’s important to make space for emotions – especially the ‘negative’ ones that can make us feel uncomfortable. Sharing a story can be a good way to do this, creating a safe place for processing honest and painful thoughts.
You don’t have to do this alone. As well as the immediate adults involved, you can inform schools, nursery, friends who can all be there to assist in any difficult times ahead. A book can be a good tool for telling friends about the changes. Children might even discover that they aren’t the only ones to experience divorce.
It’s important to note that some children might need further support. Do seek advice from a GP, or help them find someone professional to talk to, if needed.
I very much hope that these ideas help you find a way to talk about divorce that is right for you and our family. Ultimately, you know your child best. Just remember that stories can be a great way into therapeutic discussions with children and can support their well-being through big life changes, such as a divorce.
Please visit Clare's website to find out more about her other children's books.