Why Do Families Change?
By Dr Jillian Roberts and Cindy Revell, Orca Book Publishers, 2017.
‘A reassuring and straightforward explanation of separation and divorce.’
Are you and your family experience separation or divorce and don’t know how to talk to your children about it? Why Do Families Change? opens with ‘Many animals in nature choose lifelong mates’. On the opening double page spread, we see three sets of paired birds and three sets of paired couples, including one same-sex couple. The following page continues in this light with more couples from different cultures getting married, as well as another same-sex couple. It stresses that some couples choose to have a common-law relationship where they live together but don’t actually get married.
Why Do Families Change? presents a very open-minded view of the different types of relationships that are possible. It gently introduces children to the fact that some people stay married for their whole lives, while others separate or divorce.
The story goes on to explain what separation is, and what divorce is, and why these changes can happen.
Why Do Families Change? addresses the all-important issue that many children face, ‘Is it my fault?’. No matter how old your children are, there is a strong possibility that they could blame themselves for their parents’ separation. Through the illustrations, we are introduced to grandparents, who can be of great support during family changes such as separation and divorce.
The book then goes on to discuss what the child’s new world might look like, such as living in two houses instead of one, or changing school, and it touches on how the outcome will be that each parent will be happier.
Why Do Families Change? also explains to the child that change is on the horizon and that the change might mean that they feel sad, scared or angry, but that these feelings are normal and it’s ok to feel those things. Talking about those feelings is helpful, and one day, you’ll feel much better. Underlying all of this is a reminder that the child is still loved.
There is an additional page at the end of the book that gives some information about custody and blended families.
As someone who’s parents separated when I was seven, I know how difficult and confusing it can be. I think this is an excellent book to help your child transition from one type of family unit to another. Explaining to your child that you probably won’t get back together is important for your child to know so that they don’t spend their early life wishing and hoping. I wish books like this existed when I was a child!
About the author
Dr Jillian Roberts is a tenured associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She is also a registered psychologist. Her Just Enough book series deals with some of the difficult issues children may experience, such as the death of a loved one, and diversity. The series also includes topics that may be difficult to raise with your child, such as where babies come from.