As a play therapist, supervisor and trainer i have had vast experience in helping children and families over the years when there is a divorce. Children typically experience a range of symptoms that can cause significant disruption to their ability to function in daily life.
When helping children through the transition of divorcing parents, often pure child-centered play therapy can be very effective because children frequently need a break from the conflict and tension at home. Child-centered play therapy gives children an experience of being seen, heard, and allowed to explore and express through which they can grow stronger.
Often, however, children do become stuck and in need of more facilitative interventions in play therapy. Psychoeducation is sometimes appropriate and very helpful. Facilitative games, activities and bibliotherapy can go a long way in helping children put words and action to their struggles.
And supporting parents by encouraging healthy focus on the child’s best interest and healthy co-parenting is equally important. While it is not the play therapist’s role to provide co-parenting therapy, it can be appropriate to make some recommendations for reading and resources.
I’ve put together a list of some of my top resources from my own offices and library to share with play therapists working with children of divorce and their parents.
Providing parents direction in terms of keeping their parenting on track during the often heated process of divorce can be tricky. This book called Good Parenting Through Your Divorce: The Essential Guidebook to Helping Your Children Adjust and Thrive by Mary Ellen Hannibal provides excellent direction for parents. When parents have guidelines they can study and follow, it helps the child you are supporting in play therapy!
For very young children, the concrete reality of their daily lies is the most important part of their adjustment to all the changes they are experiencing. I love this little book called Two Homes that you can read with your young child clients so they can relate to the character Alex and understand what it means to have two homes – one with Mommy and one with Daddy.
Another great book to use in bibliotherapy to help younger children work through the challenges faced when parents divorced is a book called Standing on My Own Two Feet where they will see character Addison demonstrate how he knows that his parents love him even though much is changing and he feels confident he will be just fine!
Often parents ask me how to talk with their children about the divorce and as we professionals know the answer to that really depends on the child, the circumstances and the stage of the divorce. This book is one therapists can give to parents to read or therapists can pull from the wisdom and guidance this book provides for parent consultations on this subject.
This book below is a beloved favorite for many of my play therapy colleagues helping families cope and move through the process of divorce. A great family resource!
When children are on the spectrum, the guidance we as therapists provide for parents on how ti answer questions may be slightly different. The following is a great resource just for those clients!
Liana Lowenstein provides with a rich array of creative and playful interventions in this terrific handbook specifically for children of divorce for play therapists to draw from in creating treatment plans.
Sometimes children are so overwhelmed by their emotions they don’t want to talk about the divorce. This book can be used by therapists as a reflective intervention helping those children know they are not alone and all their feelings are okay. This level of acceptance and acknowledgment itself is highly therapeutic.
If you are working with teens whose parents are divorcing this is a great resource!
The Upside Down Divorce Game is a way to help children process the ups and downs and develop coping skills along the way. This is great to have on hand for those children who love to play board games!
My 2 Homes – the game – is an interactive therapeutic game that helps children increase confidence in and awareness of their ability to adapt to the changes they are facing in their families.
There are many great books about co-pareting. This one is one of my favorites because I am a long time practitioner and teacher of mindfulness and I find this to be very effective when parents apply these principles.
When helping children through the transition of divorcing parents, it can be very helpful just to provide time and space for the child to play freely, to express creatively through painting, drawing and to work in the sand tray as well. Therapists often benefit by having a large variety of resources on hand to support children through these most often difficult times in their lives and these are just some of my top favorites! Enjoy!
*Some of the links are affiliate links in this article which provide my company a small commission on any sales and that allows me to provide free resources and training!