11 Books About Modern Families: Explaining Divorce, Adoption, and More
by Christine Coppa of Mama
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These books help you start the conversation about all different kinds of families.
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Two Homes By Claire Masurel
Why We Love It: It’s a simple way to explain an upside (yep, upside) to divorce, as a kid might see it. Written in the voice of Alex, a 7-year-old boy, Two Homes 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! Kady MacDonald Denton’s warm watercolor illustrations against white backgrounds are whimsical and inviting—and will help strike up conversations about what it’s like to have two homes when parents divorce. Alex explains that the divorce hasn’t changed much in his life since he plays, sleeps and eats at both places—and has loads of fun! It’s a security blanket of a book that promises to ease your child into a new lifestyle.
Dinosaurs Divorce By Marc Brown and Laurene Krasny Brown
Why We Love It: Through comic strips featuring dinosaurs, some of kids’ fave creatures, the authors make a really tough topic more accessible. The fact that a dinosaur’s parents split up will help your child relate to his own family situation, but in a fun, relatable way—reassuring him page after page that everything will be OK. The short chapters address points like why parents divorce, stressing that it is never a child’s fault. Using bright graphics that depict anger, sadness, guilt, confusion—even relief—the authors illustrate the range of feelings a child might experience during a divorce. The book goes on to illustrate, simplify and explain the meaning of new living arrangements, what holidays may be like and what to expect if Mom or Dad remarry and have more kids. Not only will your child love this soup-to-nuts book on what happens when their mom and dad divorce, don’t be surprised if you find yourself using it as a cheat sheet when it comes to addressing things not only with your child, but your ex too.
Over The Moon: An Adoption Tale By Karen Katz
Why We Love It: The cover art and illustrations throughout are whimsical, bright, and bold, completely drawing in parents and kids alike. The text flows beautifully with the graphics, explaining that a couple wanted a baby very badly and would travel a great distance to make their dream of a complete and happy family come true. “You grew like a flower in another woman’s belly,” sets the light-hearted tone of this read. This is an ideal book to begin a discussion of adoption with a young child because it doesn’t get weighed down with the notion and complication of birth parents and their inability to care for the child—instead, it offers an easy, magical explanation to the child and works as a springboard for future discussions that will evolve as the child grows older and is able to better understand the idea of a birth mom and the adoption process.
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born By Jamie Lee Curtis
Why We Love It: 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. It’s an ideal read when tiptoeing into a discussion about adoption for the first time, concentrating mostly on how thrilled the new parents are to have the child in their life. The illustrations by Laura Cornell, a mix of dreamy watercolors and vibrant cartoon characters, are full of light and humor and marry beautifully with the simple text.
Same- Sex Families
And Tango Makes Three By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Why We Love It: This tale is based on a true story about a penguin family living in New York City's Central Park Zoo and it explains same-sex parenting to children in a fun, digestible way. The gist of the story is that Roy and Silo are two male penguins that love each other very much and cuddle just like the other penguin couples at the zoo. Determined to have a family like the others, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it, but nothing hatches! Soon, a zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them a fertilized egg to nurture. The enthusiastic fathers hatch their funny and adorable daughter, Tango. Illustrated in soft watercolors, the pictures are warm and gentle and set the tone for this uplifting story. This is a beautiful, compassionate book to read to your child, even if you’re a Mommy-Daddy household.
Horton Hatches the Egg By Dr. Seuss
Why We Love It: This book is ideal for a variety of parenting situations, including adoptive families and those with absentee parents. Horton is a lovable elephant who happens upon a mama bird, Maysie, and her egg. Maysie persuades Horton to sit on the egg for her—only he doesn’t realize that Maysie has abandoned her soon-to-be baby bird! Horton waits and waits and takes full responsibility for the egg while Maysie starts a new life—in sunny Palm Beach of all places. Horton is put through the ringer and taunted as he cares for the precious egg—soon he is sold to a traveling circus that ends up in Palm Beach, and Maysie shows up out of the blue to claim her egg—after Horton did all the work (typical!). But, when the egg hatches, an adorable elephant-bird appears and all she wants is Horton—the parent that cared enough to stick around. This book shows that biology doesn’t make someone a parent, and that we have the power to shape our own families with love and care, despite the untraditional path you took to get there.
Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big? By Carolina Nadel
Why We Love It: This book is filled with charming and bubbly illustrations in pink and purple that will help parents explain both IVF and donor egg conception. It tells the story of a baby elephant who notices lots of pregnant animals with big round bellies and innocently asks, “Mommy, was your belly big?” The mommy elephant says yes, but of course the baby elephant has more questions, as she wants to know just how she got in her mommy’s belly. Mommy elephant explains that after trying to get pregnant and taking special medicine, the doctor found another elephant to help her and Daddy have a baby. A terrific resource in opening up age-appropriate dialogue about donor eggs.
Who’s in a Family? By Robert Skutch
Why We Love It: Who’s in a Family? looks at a vast array of families using snappy text and colorful illustrations. Some kids live with mom, dad, a brother and a Golden Retriever in a big house, while others live with just mom, and yet others travel back and forth between parents’ homes or live with a grandmother. But regardless of their differences, all of the families have love in common. The book features a blank page at the end, so your child can draw a picture of his own family.
Love Is a Family By Roma Downey
Why We Love It: Love Is a Family is a great tool for a child-appropriate discussion about families because it doesn’t shy away from the differentness a child might feel when being raised by a single parent. Lily comes home from school one day and tells her mom she wants a big, noisy family like everyone else. But, when she and her mom attend Family Fun Night at school, her mom quickly points out all of the different kinds of families in the room—everyone, in fact, doesn’t have a big, noisy family! This book gives single parents the edge they need to discuss a solo parent family with their child and shows that love is what makes a family. It encourages single parents to go on a scavenger hunt and pick out all of the beautiful, loving and varied kinds of families that exist in their community. Foremost, it reminds single parents to be conscious of their child’s feelings and questions about family.
Why Don’t I Have A Daddy?: A Story of Donor Conception By George Anne Clay
Why We Love It: Until recently, choice moms, or women who decide to start a family without a partner through adoption or conception, may have faced some difficulty in explaining their family situation on a child’s level. This 2008 book solves that problem through the tale of a little lion cub who, after noticing several different kinds of families, starts to question the make-up of his own. Ultimately, the little cub learns that there is no daddy in his family, but that a donor lion made his life possible, and that his family is a very special one, despite not being like everyone else’s.
DEATH OF A PARENT
Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children By Doris Stickney
Why We Love It: When author Stickney tried to explain the death of a 5-year-old friend to neighborhood children, she told them what would become the story of Water Bugs and Dragonflies. The book offers a reassuring, graceful look at life and death for kids, telling them that their loved ones are always looking down on them. The story tells the tale of water bugs who worked together below the surface of the pond and every now and then, the bug friends realized one had gone, never to reappear. Readers discover, along with the leader of the water bugs, that the bugs transform into dragonflies—but because they’ve changed shape, they can never return to their friends under the water, so they hover nearby watching over them. The book offers a comforting metaphor for death.