What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce
by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Book Review

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What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee
Hardcover - 380 pages
First Edition, March 2003
Published by Hyperion Books
ISBN 0-7868-6865-1 / ISBN 0786868651

With the publication of What About the Kids? , child psychologist Judith S. Wallerstein and science journalist Sandra Blakeslee have introduced a complete manual for divorce with children.

Their previous book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce , which was on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction in 2000, was written for adult children of divorced parents. The newer book is for divorced parents of children of all ages.

Many of the issues discussed in the book are about children's emotions and their resultant behaviors. One of these is children's denial and inability to accept the finality of a divorce. [Page 129] Know how to proceed if the child is angry about the divorce [Page 75], and also be aware that anger in a child can lead to stealing [81] or other misbehaviors. There is advice to follow if children don't behave civilly when you date someone new. [279] The authors suggest what to tell the kids if the sexual orientation of one of the parents has led to the divorce. [111] The authors cover special considerations for disabled or otherwise vulnerable children [121], and offer a sensitive approach to child depression. [125]

What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Unfortunately, it may be your ex who is misbehaving. You will need to know what to tell the kids if your ex blames you [25] or tries to get the child to reject you [251]. The authors describe how it hurts a child when one of parents uses the child as a messenger or a spy. [241]

Some childen have "reconciliation fantasies" These can take many forms. "Some think, if I'm very good, Mom and Dad will get back together. If I get straight A's, they'll want to be together. Mom smiled at Dad when he dropped me off last night. I'll bet thet means they like each other." [139] The parents' tasks here will be difficult enough already, so don't pass up the opportunity to read the authors' practical advice on how to be sensitive and effective at the same time.

However, some parts of the book are less about handling emotions and more about factual matters, such as the section on legal advice (chapter 13). Some of the legal options are mediation and other non-adversarial approaches, and the concept of collaborative law [167]. The various kinds of custody arrangements are explained throughly (chapter 18). There is legal advice applicable to possible outcomes, for example, if you propose joint physical custody but a judge decides that it wouldn't be best for the child [210], or if you hold the viewpoint that the child has been "ordered into joint physical custody" [211]. If you don't have full custody, you will have to deal with it emotionally -- you will "lose access to parts of your children's world." [263]

Various parts of the book include "what to say" and "what to do" sections related to each chapter's topic.

The book has specific sections on the modern role of the father (chapter 25) and mother (chapter 26). The role of the grandparents is also addressed. [142]

Refer to separate sections according to each child's age, for example, chapter 4 is about parenting children up to three years of age.

The authors propose how to discuss matters with kids who are old enough to share more mature ideas, e.g., advising an adolesescent not to repeat your mistakes [110], how to explain that two parents can and do have different perceptions of "what happened" [117], or how to explain diplomatically that you've "been unhappy for years." [117]

Don't forget to give your kids the simple "add to their pleasure" activities -- "rent a movie, make popcorn." [139] The authors neither neglect nor exaggerate the importance of these simpler things.

The book describes common mistakes and how best to avoid them. Some parents make the mistake of making a phone call to a kid at college to notify him or her of the marriage breakup, even when the college is close enough for a personal visit, or when the announcement could have waited until the next holiday trip home. [117]

Parents of students should be aware that announcement of a divorce can introduce risks to adademic work. For instance, the book explains what to do if a kid away at college insists on coming home, sometimes feeling that he or she is responsible. [114]

As an exercise to make issues clearer to yourself, you can try a workbook approach. A few parts of the book are structured like workbook activities, guiding you "how to make a parenting plan" [176], or proposing "questions to ask yourself" [179].

The authors don't resort to euphemisms when directness is needed. A section on dating someone new says:

"If you're in an uncommitted relationship and you're thinking of having sex or you get carried away by passion, I would strongly advise that you do not bring your sexual partner into your home. Don't rip off each other's clothes on the couch. Get a hotel room. It's much better to tell your children that you'll be away for the weekend and that they'll be staying with your ex-spouse or a babysitter whom they know. Another benefit of coparenting is that you will have opportunities to pursue an active love life on the days and nights when your children are not staying at your house." [283]

Wallerstein and Blakeslee continue:

"But try to shield your children. You want them to value commitment, and not think that relationships between men and women are easy come, easy go. Children of divorce are inevitable worried about the stability of male-female relationships because yours did not hold up. For this one very important reason, you want to give your children the example of someone who takes relationships seriously. You may have to bend over backward to convey this message." [283-284]

The more difficult any task, the more you need well-organized reference material to assist you. You'd probably hesitate to buy an appliance that doesn't come with instructions, or a new car without an owner's manual, so imagine how much more important it must be to have a thorough reference when managing such an important and complicated matter as divorce with children.

In writing What About the Kids? , Wallerstein and Blakeslee have made a vital contribution to family planning literature.

Book review by Mike Lepore for crimsonbird.com

33 chapters; 380 pages; 16-page 2-column index; no illustrations.

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What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce
by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee
ISBN 0-7868-6865-1 / ISBN 0786868651

Book Description From the Publisher

In the tradition of the best parenting guidebooks comes a new work by renowned child psychologist Judith S. Wallerstein on a subject that vexes millions of American moms and dads: How can you genuinely protect your children during and after divorce? Wallerstein answers this important question with knowledge gathered from thirty years of in-depth interviews with children of divorce and their parents. You'll learn what you should say and do for children at each age and stage of development. You'll discover the many ways that divorce will change your family in the years ahead. You'll understand the challenges of how to be an effective parent outside of marriage, how to choose the custody plan that is best for your child, what you need to know to create a healthy remarriage, and what to say to your children when they reach adulthood. Divorce is not a single event but a lifelong trajectory of changed circumstances that demand a different kind of parenting than we have ever known.

With compassion and wisdom, Wallerstein shows how to create a new kind of family. Her experience has educated her in the ways that work, and in the ways that don't. For the first time, she shares her deep understanding of raising children after divorce, and how you and they can make use of the second chance that divorce can provide.

About the Authors

Judith S. Wallerstein is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Family in Transition. She is senior lecturer emerita at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley, where she has taught for 26 years. She is the author, with Sandra Blakeslee, of the national bestsellers The Good Marriage : How and Why Love Lasts , The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce , and with Dr. Joan Berlin Kelly, of Surviving the Breakup : How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce . She lives in Belvedere, California. Sandra Blakeslee is an award-winning science writer who contributes regularly to the New York Times. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Please click here for current price and shipping information ...
This is an Amazon.com link for
What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce
by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee
ISBN 0-7868-6865-1 / ISBN 0786868651