Sunday, May 8, 2011

Do You Sing Twinkle?: A Story About Remarriage and New Family

Seeing this picture book on my kitchen table, a friend who was visiting turned the pages and said, "Parents Should Read This." Melanie, a preschool teacher, finds that she is frequently in the middle, with a small child, between angry, divorcing parents.

Do You Sing Twinkle, by Sandra Levins, illustrated by Bryan Langdo, is a picture book about the aftermath, in one family, of a divorce. If all a parent wants is factual information about children and divorce, the Internet provides accurate articles written by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The Child Advocate is one example. But books like Do You Sing Twinkle do more. Through an engaging story, a parent can get a glimpse of what it might actually feel like to be a child experiencing divorce.

The protagonist in this book is the eldest of two brothers. Mom had moved to a new town with her new husband and his two "yucky" girls. What is it like be like as a child to be picked up " . . . at the halfway point," to have a beloved bedtime routine interrupted, and to act out at school, overwhelmed with incomprehensible feelings? There is much parents can do to make change less painful.

What finally helps this main character? Trusting his parents enough to talk about it was the first step. He finally tells his dad, "I don't like it that Mom lives far away" The reasonable and caring parents in this book respond. Soon, Mom sends a book as a gift to the boy and they read it together nightly over the phone. She sends a calendar with the days she will see them clearly circled so he knows what to expect. They use e-mail. She expresses her affection in words and dispels fantasies that her new family, "the girls" have replaced him.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, divorce and dealing with step-families can stress kids out, leading to serious problems, such as depression. Parents can help.  Reading Do You Sing Twinkle? as my friend Melanie suggests, to see in a story what they might not see in their own family, is a good place to start.

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