Few children outgrow the warm comfort of a bedtime tale. And like most kids, my son always enjoyed his baby pictures — watching himself grow and change. Divorce is no fairytale. But maybe combing a story with our own family photos will help him grasp the biggest, most dramatic change of his life.
I desperately wanted a way to tell my son the divorce was not about blame, but change — just as he himself had gone from a toddler to a big boy. I knew I had to help him understand that the divorce was not his fault; that his dad and I would always love him and keep him safe; and that things would turn out okay.
The photo album I prepared for my son, told the story of our family. It spanned from before he was born right up to the present, preparing him for our lives ahead.
He was immediately interested. My husband and I read aloud, stopping at times to reminisce about a vacation or other memorable event mentioned in our story. It felt good to laugh together — if only briefly — as a family for, perhaps, the very last time.
Did our storybook-style divorce explanation take away the pain? Of course not. But it helped us engage our son in a way he could understand. You can use the concepts I've shared here to create a book for your own children.
You can also use the storybook template in my new e-book, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! Either way, with tenderness and respect you will give your child a remarkable gift of love and set the tone for your new family for years to come. With the photo-storybook approach, you can:
Put the divorce in context. Your divorce is not just the dissolution of your marriage. It's a seismic shift in the family's dynamics. Rather than merely talk about that change, photos help your child visualize it. We gave the message that people and situations can change. Life evolves.
Write a natural "script." I don't know about you. But I felt anxious about rehearsing a divorce conversation. This was the personal story of our family. The pictures gave me a free-flowing — yet mapped out —script.
Create a child-centered focus for parents. Resentment and divorce often go hand in hand. Having the book helped us, as a couple, to keep proper perspective. Beyond our differences, frustrations and disappointments, we were still both his Mom and Dad and always would be. Our son understood that the point of our storybook was not to air our differences but to show him support during this difficult time.
Give your child a tangible resource. Kids don't do well with abstract ideas. Something about the tangible pages of pictures helped our son process the complexity of what our family would soon experience. Sometimes we'd refer back to a page as a reminder that Mom and Dad still love him forever and that everything will be okay.
My son is now a young man in his 20s. He has a thriving career as a veterinarian and lovely fiancé. Both my husband and I remarried and he is very close to both his father and me. He heartily supported my idea about sharing our family storybook with others who are facing divorce and even wrote the book's introduction.
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