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Jeanne M. Hannah

Dr. Harpham,

Thank you for your thoughtful insights. In particular, I want to reiterate your comment: "The greatest gift we can give our children is not protection from the world, but the confidence and tools to cope and grow through all life has to offer."

As a parent and former elementary teacher, I've learned that helping children develop a positive self-concept (and self-confidence is part of that) is the greatest gift. Parents who exemplify ostriches with their heads in the sand (or Chicken Little with the sky falling) do their children great disservice. Your suggestions will surely help parents struggling to help their children with this life-altering change.

Jeanne M Hannah

Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.

Thank you for this book tip and useful post reviewing healthy ways to break news of a divorce to children. It parallels insights and advice offered to parents about telling children that a parent has cancer or other serious disease.

Although a central element of the family crisis of divorce is different than that a family health crisis -- parents choose to divorce and parents do NOT choose to develop cancer -- the underlying themes are the same for raising healthy children:

* Establish open lines of communication and always telling the truth.

* Explain what is happening in language each child can understand.

* Ensure children's usual physical and emotional needs are addressed.

* Reassure children they will be cared for, no matter what happens.

Parents often find it burdensome to tend to their children's increased needs when they feel stressed themselves. But parents owe it to their children to guide and support their young charges through the changes and losses. If parents can't "be there" for the children, they need to find other adults who can tend to their children's physical and emotional needs until the parents can take over again.

The greatest gift we can give our children is not protection from the world, but the confidence and tools to cope and grow through all life has to offer.

With hope,

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