Do Books Relieve Children's Pain During Divorce?.

Author:Tuttle, Myrna El Fakhry

Families are no longer as secure as they used to be. The process of divorce and separation can deeply affect children, as can exposure to new types of family structures. Children may feel stressed, frustrated and confused.

When parents separate or divorce, children may:

* have difficulties accepting the situation;

* struggle to accept that their parents will no longer live together;

* get angry and feel they have lost the absent parent;

* blame themselves for the separation.

(See: Pardeck & Pardeck, Using Bibliotherapy to Help Children Cope with the Changing Family at pp 110-111 [Pardeck & Pardeck].)

Divorce may also cause developmental problems in children, negatively impacting their academic, social, behavioral and physical well-being. This can lead to a decline in school performance, maladjustment issues such as depression and low self-esteem, and problems in peer interactions. Teachers usually acknowledge that children who experience divorce have more behavioral problems than children who have not.

Moreover, divorce can lead to transitional periods, challenges, feelings of insecurity, and disturbances of significant relationships. After the divorce, children can be overwhelmed living in different family situations and under two different sets of rules. Many things will be changing in their life, such as dinnertime, bedtime, homework, etc. Also, one parent might be more tolerant of certain behaviours than the other.

What is bibliotherapy?

One method that can assist children in understanding divorce is bibliotherapy--the use of literature to deal with personal problems. Children normally have trouble showing their emotions. Bibliotherapy helps them understand the changes that are taking place in their lives.

Most children of divorce experience a grieving process similar to what follows a death. This process, lasting approximately 2 years following the divorce, includes a sequence of denial, anger, depression and acceptance. These emotions are actually considered to be a normal and healthy reaction to divorce. Bibliotherapy, appropriately used within the classroom, can help children make transitions through these stages. (See: Kramer & Smith, Easing the Pain of Divorce Through Children's Literature at p 90.)

The term bibliotherapy comes from the Greek words for book "biblion" and healing "therapeia". In ancient civilizations, library entrances featured inscriptions stating that there was "healing for the soul" inside the building. In 1946...

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