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Divorce

The Power of Art and Reading in Coping with Divorce

Many courts either order or suggest therapy for parents and children involved in family law litigation. Particularly with regard to child therapy, I am a big advocate of art therapy in helping children cope with divorce. Children are both extremely expressive and extremely creative. They learn by interacting with their environments and processing their experiences from those interactions through outlets such as art.

Coping With Divorce Through Art

Drawings may also provide a means by which a child’s parents can connect in a healthy and encouraging way. If you’re unsure about how to reach out to your child during a divorce or child custody battle, consider drawing or painting with your child during your allocated parenting time. Pay attention to the colors and figures of your child’s artwork in progress. And given art therapy is just as beneficial to adults as it is to kids, you might want to take a break from your own litigation-plagued mind and create alongside your child. (If you haven’t already, you should check out the newest trend in adult coloring books. They’ve been shown to reduce anxiety and stress in adults!)

However, don’t overthink or overanalyze your child’s artwork. Like pediatrician Martin Stein notes in his article about children’s drawings in Parents magazine:

A big caveat here: We all want to find hidden meanings in drawings, but be cautious about over-interpreting. It’s not a good idea to read too much into your child’s sketches. Instead, use them as an opportunity to talk with your child about what he or she has drawn. Then ask questions about them to enhance communication between you. Do your best to avoid giving too many of your own impressions. I purposely keep the conversation very open-ended: “Tell me about your drawing. Who are the people in the picture? What are they doing?”

Reading as a Coping Mechanism

Consider reviewing the list of books at the end of this article and picking out a few to read with your child during your parenting time. Here are a few suggestions to give you an idea of how reading can help your child through your divorce or child
custody matter:

  1. Parenting Conflict: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are depicts young coping skills in action. After being sent to his room, Max deals with his frustration and loss of freedom by propelling himself into an imaginary kingdom where he is in complete control of his circumstances. His mom’s act of love brings his desire for resolution full circle.
  2. Relocation: A book that comforts adults and children alike is Me and Mr. Mah, by Andrea Spalding. The book initially deals only with the topic of moving as it relates to the story of a young boy and his mom who must move from the country to the city.
  3. Divorce: The Days of Summer, by Eve Bunting, Nora, a fourth-grader, and Jo-Jo, a kindergartner, are shocked at their grandparents’ impending divorce. This sensitive book portrays not only the children’s upset feelings but also the sadness of the last days of summer in a series of lasts, such as the last visit to the duck pond.
  4. Divorce: Written in the voice of Alex, a 7-year-old boy, Two Homes by Claire Masurel enthusiastically explains that when Mommy and Daddy divorce, their love for their child remains and even grows into two of everything: two homes (his mom lives in the city while his dad lives at the beach), two bedrooms, two kitchens—two places for Alex to hang his coat!
  5. Adoption: In Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born, actress and adoptive mom Jamie Lee Curtis writes in a pitch-perfect tone, addressing the logistics of adoption on a basic level that will make a child feel both safe and satisfied. This charming story of a mom and dad telling their child about the night she was born reaffirms love and family commitment with every page-turn.

Divorce Can Be Stressful for Children

Family law matters are stressful. They also take a significant toll on the well-being of children caught in the middle of them. But creative and fun outlets do exist to help children cope and understand such times. I encourage you to spend part of your parenting time exploring creative ways for your child to cope with your family law case. It might also be worth asking any therapist that you or your child may be seeing about additional projects in the form of art therapy.

And more likely than not, you will find that both you and your child benefitted immensely from being creative during your troubled times! If you’re considering a divorce, contact the divorce attorneys at Modern Family Law for a free consultation.

For more lists of therapeutic books for children, please visit:

  • Parenting.com – 11 Books About Modern Families: Explaining Divorce, Adoption, and More
  • Young Children – Literature to Help Children Cope with Family Stressors
  • Little Parachutes Picture Books – Books on Divorce and Separation
  • University of Minnesota – Books on Divorce and Separation (by age group)

Posted April 11, 2015
by: MFL Team


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