Positive tools for thriving families.

A twelve-year old girl tells me she does not want to start her new middle school next week. This is because she fears being teased for being Latina-American. I believe her… she has been struggling with name-calling and rejection for the past six months in elementary school, as have been many other children.

As children return to school, it is imperative that we continue to teach them the critical differences between prejudice and respect. Children from different religious, ethnic, cultural, sexual orientation, and racial backgrounds may be worried about stereotypes, bias, and even hate from others given the current socio-political climate. Students may be anxious about teasing, slurs, bullying, isolation, anger, and ignorance in the classrooms and on the playgrounds. Simultaneously, other kids may have learned that it is acceptable to fear and mistrust others from different ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, national, and religious backgrounds. This may lend itself to the expression of separation, anger, and hate, creating unsafe and unhealthy environments in schools.

Hence, parents, teachers, and counselors need to be on the alert and should invite children to ask questions and express their feelings around these fears – fear of others’ differences and the fear of anger and rejection for being different.

Although these conversations may be difficult and complicated, there are ways to facilitate trust, and begin open dialogues with children.

Here are some suggestions for broaching this difficult topic:

  1. Ask your children what they are excited about and what they are worried about in starting school again.
  2. Ask your children (if they are old enough), what they think and feel about some of the news they are watching regarding inclusion, respect, and prejudice.
  3. Ask your children what their understanding is about words like ‘racism’ or ‘religious prejudices’. What do these words mean? What might they sound or look like? What are the different ways these words can be expressed in behaviors, words, and silence?
  4. Ask your children if they have ever experienced or expressed teasing, bullying, anger, rejection, and isolation because of skin color, accent, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, culture, or language.
  5. Ask your children what their understanding is about the word ‘respect’. What does this word mean? What might it sound or look like? What are the different ways it can be expressed in behaviors, words, and silence?
  6. Discuss and demonstrate the differences in the behaviors and words we choose to use between rejection and acceptance, respect and bias, inclusion and exclusion, fear and hope.
  7. Use simple and clear language, that is developmentally appropriate, based on your child’s age.
  8. Identify safe grown-ups in the family and in school that your children can go to discuss their worries and experiences related to these issues.
  9. Encourage your children to ask questions, write letters, draw pictures, and share stories with safe adults if they have been a part of or witnessed any religious, racial, sexual orientation, or cultural bullying.
  10. Model acceptance, respect, inclusion, and hope for your children daily.

Much of the above may sound like common sense; however, many of us forget to have specific and concrete discussions with our children on these complicated and painful topics. Having your children explore, define, and identify key behaviors, words, and experiences related to ‘isms’ vs. respect, will empower your children and teach them to recognize and enact the differences. Modeling acceptance and respect of others to your children is even more powerful than words, and can be transformative. It is not only imperative that we teach our children how to cope with racial, sexual, religious, and cultural biases in these difficult times, but also to teach our children not to fear these differences.



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  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf