This is a really important conversation, one researchers say is “memorable and transformative” for older children. You want to get it right.
The good news is, research also says you’re on the right path simply by having the talk versus leaving your child to wonder. The effects of divorce on children is widely debated. It relies heavily on whether or not the divorce and its aftermath are handled the right way, and with the child’s best interest at heart. One thing is for sure: there’s so much you can do to shape their experience and perspective. You can learn more about that here.
And don’t forget to check out our tips for having the talk. Bear’s Changing Family is a powerful tool, but it should not be a substitute for the talk.
Personalized stories are relatable and lengthen attention
There is something magical about the “I see me” aspect of personalized books. It sparks an instant connection. It makes the messaging more meaningful, thereby lengthening a child’s attention span. It can be a straightforward, sure-fire way to engage young children deeply.
Research states that, “…personalised [sic] stories might have been more engaging for some students due to a sense of greater personal relevance.”
Once a child sees how much he has in common with Bear, he can’t help but think, “Bear is ok. I’ll be ok too.”
It meets them where they are cognitively and emotionally
Bear’s Changing Family fills a gap for books about divorce specifically for very young children that explains what divorce is and what it means for them. Messaging is simple, straight-forward and age-appropriate while being tender to address the strong attachment to parents that children this age feel. Experts recommend the following for ages (4-8):
Read books or watch shows that involve dealing with divorce or related issues together. Buy, check out or borrow books or movies that show children or families dealing with divorce and its effects (make sure they are age-appropriate). Ask children what they think about the story or characters and how they respond. Compare your own situation.
Reading can ease children through difficult, new phases of life
When your child reaches a new stage in his growth, or experiences a new and unfamiliar situation, reading to him about a story relevant to his new experience can relieve anxiety and help him cope. As Scholastic puts it, “kids (ages 6-17) agree reading …helps them through their own personal rough spots…
Just over half of kids (53%) also agree a book has helped them through a difficult time, and it’s heartening to see that nearly the same percentage of parents (55%) feel books have played this role for their child.”
The right messaging
We wanted to do more, and do better, than what’s out there for this big talk. Bear’s Changing Family delivers a difficult message with heart. Love is a constant throughout. Through divorce and through life, the most important thing we can do for our children is make sure they know they are loved.
We wanted not just to inform and comfort children, but also to empower them. Bear’s Changing Family acknowledges and validates children’s feelings about divorce. It lets them know that it’s ok to be sad, have questions or miss one of their parents and here’s what to do when that happens.
Every page and every message was informed by research and expertise, like understanding how much young children thrive on consistency and routine so we need to explain what will stay the same. Or making sure we address the common misconception that it’s the child’s fault.
Through divorce, we can teach our children so much about love and resilience.
Bridges the world of Bear and the child’s world
Children’s learning during shared reading has been found to be somewhat dependent on how well parents are able to bridge the child’s world and the world of the book (Source). Personalized books can help bring the world of the book and the child’s world together.
Bear’s Changing Family toes the line between story and reality by bringing a stuffed bear to life who talks to your child in a world filled with textures he or she can almost touch and feel. It feels real. It gets even more real when they get a stuffed bear of their own.
Reading together strengthens parent-child bonds
Reading to your child not only helps you bond, but it also gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being. This feeling of intimacy helps him or her feel close to you, and the feelings of love and attention encourage positive growth and development. When it is part of your daily routine, it is a special time together that your little one can count on.
Personalized stories enhance understanding and memory
Bear’s Changing Family offers context to help a child understand and retain the concept and implications of divorce. There is evidence to suggest that a personalized reading context can facilitate reading comprehension and word recognition. Another study suggests that “personally meaningful stories turned into a book reading event will enhance the stories’ value and learning potential.”
Memory is enhanced when people are able to categorize stimuli in relation to themselves (Sui and Humphries, 2015).
Personalized stories aid discussion
When children can identify with experiences and feelings in a story, it’s easier for them to share them. Children’s level of engagement with discussions during book reading depends to some extent on “…the knowledge the child brings to the exchange” (Hindman et al., 2008). This may be facilitated by personalized books featuring children within the story due to the child’s knowledge of personal experiences and feelings. This is a good opportunity to ask, “How do you think Bear felt when his parents told him they were getting a divorce?”
It worked for us!
Bear’s Changing Family was inspired by the book author’s personal experience with her 3 1/2-year-old son when it was time to tell him that she and his father were going to divorce. She felt the books that were available were too advanced for his age, and they lacked the special touch that a “big moment” discussion like this deserved. That’s how Bear came to be his little friend to help him through it. She knew by watching him and hearing his reaction that Bear made an impact. He helped him, comforted him and reminded him how much he was loved. He made divorce more bearable. We hope Bear helps your changing family as much as he did ours!