Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Before A Child Visits Family Court

Cover art copyright 2012 by Picture Window Books.
Used with permission
Weekends with Dad
What to Expect When Your Parents Divorce

By Melissa Higgins
Illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan

Picture Window Books, Mankato, MN

Reviewed by Laura Harting

This book for elementary school children tells a story about parental separation and divorce. The story is told and illustrated from the perspective of a young fox in a small family of foxes.  Like other books of this genre, Weekends with Dad addresses the issue of child custody, family court appearances, and child support. This book is unusual, however, because it also makes mention of a school-based support group for children of divorced parents.

Children of divorcing parents often overhear adult conversations using strange new words related to court appearances, so this book is especially useful to help children understand what those words mean.  In this book, illustrated using very human-looking foxes, the school-aged fox has a meeting with a court-appointed advocate who looks like a kindly old bear who kneels down to make eye contact with the child and who asks lots of questions, including asking with whom the youngster wants to live.  My experience as a child and family therapist tells me that interviews like this can be a reality for children of divorcing parents. It is good to have an elementary school age book that talks about court appearances and how children can have input into the child custody issue. 

Like other books reviewed previously on this blog, this is another good selection to read along with a child. It seems very geared towards reading with a counselor.  However, it would also be a good book to read with a parent, especially if your child will be talking with a court advocate or attorney. The end of the book offers other resources, such as books, websites, an index, and a short glossary, which would also help adults explain difficult concepts to children.

In general, I like animal illustrations like those found in Weekends with Dad, because they provide a comforting distance for the child when reading about emotionally charged issues.  However, because the divorce is happening to the parents of the young fox in the book, and the young fox is speaking as if it is happening to him, that distance does not seem to exist here.

If you are a parent, I recommend reading this book with your child, but only if your child will be involved in a court proceeding.  I do not recommend a parent reading this book with a child who will not be interviewed by anyone in the family court system.  Introducing the concept of court involvement in situations where that will not happen could only increase the anxiety or stress your child feels about the already stressful situation of divorcing parents.

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

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