10 Divorce Books for Kids to Help Them Make Sense of What’s Happening and Deal with Big Feelings
It’s no secret that divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can experience, and that stress is felt not only by the two people parting ways, but also any children involved. Of course, it is possible for the whole family to adjust happily to the new arrangement, but there’s a good chance your child will need some extra emotional support to get there.
“It is normal for children to experience a wide range of emotions that can seem like a rollercoaster—anger, confusion, shock, sadness, anxiety,” psychologist and family therapist Dr. Danielle Forshee tells us. She adds that “they may even act out a bit or want to be alone at times.” In other words, kids will likely have a lot of big feelings about the whole thing and, whether they say so or not, they’ll need the help of a sensitive parent to sort it all out. That said, helping a child manage the stress and cope with conflicted feelings about divorce is no small task when you’re busy trying to do the same for yourself—and that’s why divorce books for kids can really come in handy.
Books about divorce can “help bridge the gap with teaching children coping skills for managing big feelings,” says Dr. Forshee. (Note: This is especially helpful when emotions are running high for the grown-ups and they could use a helping hand in the parenting department.) Furthermore, Dr. Forshee tells us that books help “normalize for children that what they are going through is experienced by a host of other families from all over.” They can also provide a talking track for parents and kids by encouraging children to “feel more open to expressing themselves directly to the co-parents about big feelings.” Indeed, books about divorce have multiple benefits for children at a time of family change. If you’re ready to add some to your home library, we’ve got some recommendations to get you started.
1. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
This touching, and reassuring book about the endurance of parental love is not about divorce, per se. However, the story does a lot to help children cope with separation anxiety—a significant emotional challenge that kids, especially young ones, face as they adjust to the new reality of being with only one parent at a time. In the book, a mother racoon helps her baby find the courage to go to school by planting a kiss in the palm of his hand before he leaves, and the gesture serves as a poignant reminder that her love will be with him even when he’s not under her roof. This one is sure to comfort any kid who’s having a hard time with goodbyes when going between homes, and a (much needed) snuggle session is a sure outcome of the reading experience.
Best for ages 2 to 7
2. My Heart by Corinna Luyken
My Heart is a thoughtful and evocative book in which sparse poetry and gorgeous water-based ink and pencil illustrations combine to capture the full range of human emotion—including the sadness, anger and loneliness that children might experience when they’re coping with a significant family change. This book never mentions divorce (or any specific hardship, for that matter) but each line of lyrical prose uses metaphor to great effect—helping children of all ages connect with their complicated and changing feelings. The takeaway? This is an abstract, but powerful read from start to finish with a positive message about healing and resilience, and an extra dose of empowerment on the final pages: “My heart is a shadow, a light and a guide/ Closed or open/ I get to decide.”
Best for ages 4 to 8
3. Two Homes Filled with Love: A Story about Divorce and Separation by Steven Herman
If you’re looking for a more straightforward way to tackle the topic of divorce, you can’t go wrong with this one. Compassionate and honest, the rhyming text and colorful imagery in Two Homes Filled with Love addresses the context of divorce directly, but focuses on the child’s experience of the life change rather than dwelling on the grown-up details. The content here doesn’t take a deep dive into the really big feelings involved, but it does outline and normalize new routines, while touching on some of the common insecurities that kids might experience after a divorce—namely, by providing reassurance that the child is not to blame for the situation and still very much loved.
Best for ages 4 to 10
4. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
This compassionate and heartwarming book relies on simple text and beautiful illustrations to tell the story of a mother who soothes her children by telling them that there’s an invisible string connecting them at all times—a conceit that’s sure to captivate the imagination of young readers, while conveying that the love between parent and child is unyielding and impervious to family change. For this reason, The Invisible String is an excellent resource for helping children cope with the sadness, separation anxiety and general sense of loss that often occur during the post-divorce bereavement period. (Note: Although the content is sensitive and appropriate for all ages, parents should know that the book does contain a reference to heaven.)
Best for ages 3 to 7
5. The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
The List of Things That Will Not Change—a phenomenal work of fiction for tween and teenage children of divorce by award-winning author Rebecca Stead—tackles significant family change and LGBTQ themes with honesty, empathy and grace. The storyline here centers around the emotional life of Bea, a middle school-aged girl who’s adjusting to her parents’ divorce, as well as her father’s upcoming marriage to another man who has a daughter of his own. One thing that’s notably absent here is the typical doom and gloom portrayal of divorce. Indeed, parents and children alike will appreciate that this well-written and thoroughly engaging novel is also overwhelmingly positive. (Spoiler alert: Bea is really excited to gain a sister.)
Best for ages 8 to 13
6. Standing On My Own Two Feet by Tamara Schmitz
If you’re in search of a book about divorce for younger children, this gem will check all the boxes. The simple text covers a lot of ground, thanks to the combination of positive affirmations about unconditional love and plainspoken statements about circumstance (“Even though I wish we could live together again, that probably won’t happen…”) that can be found on every page. In other words, this one provides ample comfort to confused kids, while simultaneously encouraging them to arrive at a place of acceptance in the face of things they cannot control. Plus, this book boasts an upbeat tone and brightly-colored illustrations—making it an obvious choice for the preschool crowd.
Best for ages 2 to 5
7. Two Homes by Claire Masurel
There’s no explicit mention of divorce, and negative feelings don’t make an appearance in this book, either. Instead, the simple text and bold images of the story provide a detailed overview of one of the biggest changes that divorce brings (i.e., having two homes), told from the perspective of a young child. Overall, the child-centered content is wholly positive and the tone refreshingly matter-of-fact. A short, but sweet read that calms and validates little kids by normalizing a living situation that, at first, might be experienced as uncomfortably new and strange. (Neutrality for the win.)
Best for ages 2 to 5
8. A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary
Inclusive, wise and relatable from start to finish, this heartening book tells the story of a young girl who is too self-conscious to open up about her family structure to her classmates...until her peers open up one by one about their own unique and diverse families, and she ultimately finds the confidence to do the same. The positive messages here are powerful and sure to resonate with any child of divorce who is struggling with feelings of social awkwardness and embarrassment as a result of their new reality. (Bonus: The intricate illustrations are seriously charming, too.)
Best for ages 4 to 8
9. Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt
Divorce can be a destabilizing event for everyone involved, simply because it’s a departure from the familiar. If you’re looking for a book that validates that experience, while also providing a template for healing, look no further than Fred Stays With Me. This feel-good story is told from the fresh and honest perspective of a young child of divorce, who finds solace and strength in her beloved pet dog, who follows her from one home to the other. Children of all ages will find the content approachable, and all parties will benefit from the book’s message, which communicates the importance of finding a sense of continuity in times of significant family change.
Best for ages 4 to 8
10. Divorce is the Worst by Anastasia Higginbothom
As the title suggests, this book doesn’t attempt to gloss over the many ways in which divorce can often truly suck. Still, Anastasia Higginbothom’s disarming honesty will be a breath of fresh air for older kids, and the content isn’t gratuitously negative or depressing. On the contrary, Divorce is the Worst is written with tremendous empathy for everyone involved and reading it with your child will provide an opportunity for catharsis, while encouraging more open conversations about stuff that’s just plain hard.
Best for ages 5 to 12