Inside: Children’s Books About Divorce are hard to find. Trust me, I know from experience. Here you’ll find a list of children’s books about divorce and beyond that helped my family survive — and thrive!
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The Best Children’s Books About Divorce & Beyond to Help Kids Cope, Survive & Thrive… From a Mom Who’s Been in the Trenches
I was huddled on the floor with my knees to my chest, tears flooding my eyes with reckless abandon. A gaping pit hollowed out my stomach, and I truly feared it would never be sewn back together again. Everything around me was the same — the monogramed towels that were a wedding present from a distant great aunt, his razor on the counter next to the sink, the cord from my flat iron peeping out from one of the drawers — yet my life had changed in the most dramatic way imaginable.
I was getting divorced.
The whole scenario — holed up in the bathroom, crying on the floor — sounds so cliche now. But it was, unfortunately, so real. So horribly, painfully real.
And then, the realization that it wasn’t just about me.
Gather breath, dry eyes, wipe nose.
I had children in the other room. This divorce was not just about my soon to be ex-husband and me, but also the two sweet boys that meant (and still mean) more to me than anything else in the entire world. Two boys that would have to bear the brunt of our separation.
Two boys I feared I failed as a parent.
Once the initial shock wore off, I became a mom on a mission.
My boys were young, only 4 and 2 at the time, and I resolved to do everything in my power to talk them through our new family dynamic, to be there however they needed me. It was important to me that, even if they didn’t understand the ins and outs of divorce at their tender young ages, I created a safe space for us to communicate from the get-go.
I wanted my boys to know they could ask me anything, and I would always be honest and talk about our situation in a sensitive, age appropriate manner. But how do you start talking about the big D word?
Well, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know what I did first: I sought out books.
But I encountered one MAJOR problem.
Children’s books about divorce were few and far between.
Where Were the Children’s Books About Divorce?
I have books coming out of my ears. It makes sense, I guess, because I’m not just a book blogger but also an elementary school librarian, and I happen to buy books the same way other girls buy shoes or purses: obsessively and with a vengeance. I can recommend books on nearly any topic under the sun.
But when it came to finding children’s books about divorce — books I was literally desperate for — I came up nearly empty.
It was a struggle.
My boys were young. I needed books that gently approached the topic of divorce, but I also didn’t want anything heavy handed and didactic. My boys learn best from stories that prompt conversation gently and in organic ways, not from stories that boldly show their cards on the first page. (Though don’t get me wrong - the latter have their time and place, too!)
I found very few, so I had to get creative.
I armed myself with one or two books that gently touched on divorce, but then I also broadened my search. I introduced books into our reading routine that illuminated family diversity and alternative family structures, books on handling grief, and books that dealt with the confusion and sadness of separating from a loved one in any circumstance.
Children’s books about divorce, as well as books about family diversity, grief and fear, helped our trio communicate and heal.
I am by no means an expert on helping children through divorce, nor am I in any way a child therapist or psychologist.
Yet, as a reader, a children’s librarian, a book blogger and — perhaps most importantly — a mom who wanted nothing more than to help my children survive and thrive during this exceedingly difficult time, I felt compelled to share the books that most helped my family through this traumatic and challenging experience, together with some more recent releases I wish we would have had when we were in the thick of it.
If you stumbled upon this post because you are in the middle of a divorce, I wish you luck, love and light. And in the words of the great Bob Marley, words my sister shared with me both when my son was in the ICU after suffering from his stroke and again during my divorce, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”
You can do this. And I promise, your children and you will be ok. From my family to yours, I hope these books help you as much as they helped us.
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Children’s Books About Divorce: Two Homes
My Two Homes, by Claire Masurel and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton: Alex has two homes, one with mommy and one with daddy. She also has two bedrooms, two comfy chairs, and friends to play with at each house. Despite the fact that Alex’s parents are divorced and she has two of everything, one thing remains constant, no matter where she is: she is so very loved. For children of divorced families, this reassuring book addresses the things children “gain” during a divorce - and the things that will never change when parents separate.
Standing on my Own Two Feet: A Child’s Affirmation of Love in the Midst of Divorce, by Tamara Schmitz: In simple terms, with short text and bright pictures, this sweet book tells the story of one child who understands that she has two homes and divorced parents. While sometimes he wishes they all still lived together, he knows that won’t happen. But what he also knows is that no matter where he lives, or who he is with, his parents love him and that won’t ever change. Just as he has two strong feet to ground him, he also has two strong homes to live in. Tender, gentle, and uplifting, this is a perfect book for you those of you with very young children.
Fred Stays with Me!, by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Tricia Tusa: There are so few stories about divorce that aren’t didactic or heavy handed. This one follows a girl learning to navigate her new life with two homes and going back and forth between mom’s and dad’s houses. The child’s dog, Fred, goes back and forth with her, providing stability for the girl and common ground for the parents. The dog also provides an avenue for the parents to learn to resolve conflict. A great story that is simple and not overly sentimental.
Divorce is the Worst, by Anastasia Higginbotham: For those of you with older children, this book is fantastic. Honest, frank, and oh so authentic, this is the perfect book to give to a child anywhere from first or second grade on up. It is so straight forward, and any child who is the living through the trauma and grief of a divorce will be able to relate to the young boy in this book immediately. His feelings are spot on, and with a touch of humor, this story helps kids feel less alone and more understood at a time when they feel their whole word is falling apart.
Children’s Books About Divorce: Separation Anxiety
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper: Leaving a parent is not easy for many kids. Whether it’s going to school for the first time, being left with a babysitter, or leaving mom for the weekend because it’s dad’s weekend with the kids, that separation can be tough. This book has helped us through so many situations, and my boys always remember that wherever they go, I am always with them, even if not physically present. I can't even recall how many times I have reminded them to make use of their kissing hands - it has become so ingrained in our routines. All the love for this one and its ability to speak so perfectly to children! See our full review HERE.
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: This is such an amazing book for separation anxiety. One day, a mother tells her children about the invisible string that connects them all the time. The kids, of course, demand to see it, but mom tells them the string is simply made of love. We love the way this book beautifully tackles the idea of unconditional love, and that even when we are far away, we are forever connected. Whether its death, divorce, school, or any other situation in which a child has to separate from a parent he doesn’t want to leave, this one is a gem.
Children’s Books About Divorce: Diverse Families
A Family is a Family is a Family, by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Qin Leng: A young student is hesitant to tell her classmates about her unique family. But once the other students begin talking about their own alternative families, the students quickly learn there is no one way to be. Instead, each family is special in its own, uniquely wonderful way. This flawless story conveys that families come in all shapes and sizes, some with divorced parents, others with adopted children, some with same sex parents and others with multiracial parents, just to name a few. It is a book I am proud to display in our school library, and one that is cherished in our home collection because it stands for everything I believe in! For our full review of this beautiful book, click here!
The Family Book, by Todd Parr: Two dads? Two moms? Single parents? Multiracial families? Whether your family is big or small, clean or messy, Todd Parr’s vibrant, simple book is perfect for young readers. The Family Book happens to be one of our very favorite of Parr’s books for the fantastic way it teaches children to appreciate our differences and the beauty of family diversity. As long as there is love, nothing else matters! This book about alternative families should be in every classroom and on every child’s bookshelf around the country.
Families, Families, Families!, by Suzanne Lang and illustrated by Max Lang: We absolutely adore the way this adorably illustrated book uses quirky animals to showcase family diversity. A journey through these pages is like strolling through the hallway in someone’s loving home and gazing at all the great photos hanging on the walls. “Framed” illustrations of various animal families - showcasing a family with two dads, a family with one mom, a child with no siblings and a child living with grandparents - gently showcase that no two families are the same, no matter how many or how few people live under one roof, no matter how many girls and how many boys. Instead, it is love and connection alone that matter.
Children’s Books About Divorce: Grief and Sadness
Maybe Tomorrow?, by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez: Elba, a pink hippo, has been dragging around a great big block for a long time, and it greatly limits her potential. Norris, on the other hand, doesn’t drag but instead happily dances wherever he goes, surrounded by a cloud of butterflies. Norris tries to convince Elba to join him on his adventures, but the block often gets in Elba’s way. Norris never gives up though, patiently and compassionately cajoling her to join him, all the while following her lead and helping her manage her block. Eventually, little by little, Elba’s block becomes smaller. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful books about grief I have ever read, and I wish this book was around a couple of weeks ago, because I would have read it every day!. For our full review of Maybe Tomorrow?, click here!
I’m Sad, by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi: I can’t tell you how many times I have recommended this book to friends and students, for the way it so gently touches on sadness. Sadness is universal — everyone feels unhappy at times — and this story (with the help of a girl, a flamingo, and a potato!) conveys that sometimes our sadness is so big that even the best friends can’t cheer us up, and this is ok. That sadness won’t stick around forever, though, and our friends will stick by us no matter what. This one speaks to children so perfectly, and my family turned to this one a lot when we were in the thick of the divorce.
When Sadness is at Your Door, by Eva Eland: In this fabulous book, sadness is personified as a visitor, one who must be given a name and a face to make him less mystifying for kids. The beauty of this story is that the child must invite the visitor in, with the author even suggesting activities you can do with sadness, like going for a walk or sitting quietly together. The author doesn’t suggest that you must try to shut the visitor out or force it to go away. To the contrary, she respects sadness and attempts to make this daunting feeling less frightening for kids. This is a unique, fresh approach to the notion of sadness, and I love how the idea of sadness arriving as a visitor reminds children (and even adults too!) that this feeling is not permanent, but temporary instead.
The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld: Something bad has happened to Taylor: she cannot get over her devastation when a tower she worked so hard to construct crashes to the ground. Her friends try to help. They offer suggestions and unsolicited advice, trying everything in the books to get her to calm down. But only when the rabbit sits and listens -- just listens, quietly and calmly - does she begin to feel better. How I love this one! This is a favorite picture book highlighting the ever important quality of listening and not trying to “fix” things. It’s one I loved for the way it reminded me that sometimes, my kids just needed to talk and share, and I didn’t have to rush in and try to solve all of their fears — i just needed to sit with them, give them love, and be there while they expressed their feelings.
RELATED: For great resources on talking with your children about divorce, I encourage you to check out these terrific articles: