Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Recommended for Teens and Parents of Teens

Cover art copyright Zest Books.
Used with permission.

Split in Two:
Keeping It Together When Your Parents Live Apart
By Karen Buscemi
Zest Books, 2009
San Francisco, CA

Reviewed by Laura Harting

            I like this book for teens whose parents are divorcing. I also like this book for parents of teens who are divorcing. 
I like this book for teens because it is easy to read, well organized and has pertinent and practical information that can be very helpful to teens whose parents are splitting up.  I like the cartoons and I like the short vignettes by teens themselves.  On top of providing useful information, this book is organized in such a way that you can just read the part that you need to know in the moment without having to read the whole book. 
            However, I received mix reviews from the teens I know who have read the book.  I have been told that some of the information is useful, but their parents don’t get along well enough for them to even consider the teenagers' needs.  For teens with embattled parents, any adolescent suggestions seem to make one or the other parent angry.  Feedback from these teens is that the teen does not have the power to negotiate, and efforts to do so result in being “yelled at,” causing more battles between the parents.  One teen shared with me that for any of these ideas to work, parents would need to get along a whole lot better than her parents. 
            My experience in the counseling room with both teens and parents is that sometimes negotiation by the teen is seen by one parent as the other parent trying to gain more control.  For example, when parents have disagreed and argued over how much time a child spends in the home of each parent, a teen trying to manage his or her school, friend, work, and activity schedules can wreak havoc on the housing schedule the parents worked so hard to create.  Parents are not ready to give up the control they received through mediation or in the courtroom and the teen is stuck having little or no input and frustrated at trying to talk about it with the parents. For this reason, I think this is also a good book for parents of teens who are divorcing to read. It can give them a heads up on how difficult it is for teens to live in two households and manage their important and busy lives. It may help parents to be more flexible and include the teen's schedule in decisions about how much time the child spends in each home. 
            I recommend this book for both teens and divorcing parents of teens.  It offers useful ideas for teens and useful insight for parents.

Laura Harting, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.