Title: Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children
Author: Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., Illustrated by Polona Lovsin
Reviewed for the NABBW by: Anne L. Holmes
When our daughter was five and our son two, my former husband and I had to explain to them that we were divorcing. The term “conscious uncoupling” hadn’t been invented yet, but we did everything possible to separate ourselves from the marriage with as little angst as possible, precisely because we didn’t want to cause trauma and pain for our children.
I’m not sure they emerged totally unscathed, because regardless of our intent, the five year old asked us essentially all the same questions Zoey Bunny asks in this excellent book designed to help children aged 4-8 understand divorce. Especially heart-wrenching, as I recall, were my daughter’s concerns that had she been a more well-behaved child, the divorce might not have happened. Also, like Zoey Bunny, she initially felt sadness and anxiety.
We were advised by counselors that there was no need to tell the two-year old about the divorce. They said he wouldn’t notice. Not true! While he didn’t have the verbal skills to ask questions, he exhibited signs of separation anxiety. Things like trying not to sleep at night, so nothing further could alter his world, without his knowledge.
Children DO notice when parents separate and/or divorce, and it is critical to help them deal with the issues at hand. This book, which features Zoey, a cute bunny who has been hearing the words “separation” and “divorce,” does an excellent job explaining the ramifications of divorce, using simple words, large type and engaging illustrations. The Note to Adults at the book’s front, and the list of Process Questions at the back are excellent adjuncts to the storyline.
I appreciated the fact that Zoey Bunny is not always sad, that sometimes she forgets about the divorce and is simply a young, fun-loving bunny. That’s quite realistic, in my experience.
The one thing I wished the book included was more of a presence for Daddy Bunny. And, I wished Mama and Daddy Bunny had talked to Zoey in advance of the divorce. It appears that Daddy Bunny has simply moved out, with no explanation. But perhaps the book is written as it is because it’s more evocative of divorces which are not as friendly as mine was.
Author Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and expert consultant on child development and parenting, who has been working with children and families for twenty years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College, and received her doctoral training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, her post-doctoral fellowship training at the University of Michigan Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, and specialized training at the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
Dr. Maker specializes in child development, parenting, and psychotherapy and has extensive experience working in hospitals, schools, clinical agencies, and nonprofit organizations. She has also taught and supervised graduate and undergraduate students in play therapy, family therapy, and parent guidance, and has published several research and theoretical articles in scientific, peer-reviewed professional psychology journals. She brings a wealth of experience working with divorcing families to her debut title, Family Changes,
which is certain to educate, enlighten, and empower both children and parents.
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NABBW Contributing Author