Today I’m sharing more books and media to inspire and support non-traditional families. As a day gig, I work as a book and TV reviewer for Common Sense Media: an online resource that helps families navigate their media lives. I wanted to touch on some media that could be helpful in showing your kids that their journey, as a child living in a non-traditional family, is something that other kids experience as well. You can check out some of my previous suggestions in Episode 7.
This book is for kids ages six and up, and it’s a sequel to Weekends with Max and His Dad (featured in Episode 7). In this book, Max is in third grade and he goes on a road trip to a family reunion with his single mom. Max has trouble adjusting to the change in the schedule, as his weekends are usually spent with his dad. He begins the trip by politely refusing to go. Once he’s at the family reunion, he asks himself questions that kids of divorce often ask:
- Is this my family, if my dad isn’t here?
- Can I have a good time, even if my dad is sad at home?
- Can I keep everybody happy?
I really liked the way the voice of the child shines through here. Max does end up having real road trip experiences with his mom, and their journey brings them closer – as good road trips should.
[1:38] The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
I thought this book was good for ages eight and up, and it also deals with life after divorce. This book takes place in New York City, and when Bea is eight her parents sit her down for a family meeting where she learns that they will be living in two apartments.
Bea’s parents give her a list of things that will not change. It reads:
- Mom loves you more than anything, always.
- Dad loves you more than anything, always.
And at the end of the list Bea adds an entry of her own: Dad is gay.
The story is told in retrospect, from twelve-year-old Bea’s perspective. She remembers her need to build new bridges to everything in her life, to understand what it means to exist in another bedroom, and what it might be like to meet a step-sister.
This book, to me, was absolutely stunning in its ability to give voice to a child going through an amicable divorce. I highly recommend this book for the tween girl – or boy – in your life.
[2:44] Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop
The last book I’ll talk about today concerns a boy whose dad has passed away. In this book, twelve-year-old Drew is starting a summer of volunteering at his local library in Rhode Island. It’s been a few years since his dad died, and he doesn’t like to talk about it very much. Drew’s father took his own life, and he is worried that people will treat him differently if they know that. This is also the summer when his parents’ old friend Phil shows up on his motorcycle. Drew is pretty suspicious about Phil’s intentions, and he worries that Phil is trying to date his mother.
This book delves into some deep, emotional ground that will speak to kids who have suffered loss, or kids who have grieved. The tween voice is pretty spot on, and the struggles with life lessons are worth the read.
[3:29] Just Add Magic (Amazon Prime)
I also wanted to talk about a TV series that is fun for tweens and shows life after divorce in a meaningful way – even if it takes a few seasons to get there. Just Add Magic is a 2015 show on Amazon Prime. It’s pretty lighthearted and very girly, but there’s a character named Darbie whose parents have recently divorced. She spends some time plotting to get them back together, and she reacts to new love interests coming into their lives.
Like many children of divorce, she is worried that, in this case, her dad’s new girlfriend is going to take the place of her mom or try to be her mom. Darbie is also worried that her dad won’t have the time or focus to parent her as he did when he was a solo parent.
I think the way they navigate this challenge is done well, and Common Sense Media gives it a green light for kids ages six and up.
As kids get older, the topics of death and divorce in the family become more prevalent in books and TV. I wanted to give a couple of titles here for younger kids as well. Try reading with your kid, or to your kid, and try sitting down to watch a show with them and just be with them. I wouldn’t confront them, or say, “Is that how you feel?” But just a little side comment – “That’s familiar,” or, “I like how he handled that.” See where it takes you. The conversations are worth it.
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