Jennifer Hargrave recently sat down with Amy Tyson, author of One Princess, Two Castles. They talked about one challenging subject no parent wants to go through with their children, but nonetheless many have to.
How do you talk to your children about divorce?
That’s one of the most challenging issues parents face when they are facing divorce. When Amy was encountering her own divorce, she realized that there needed to be a better way to facilitate the conversation with children that was healthy and focused on the child, and that is why she wrote a book called One Princess Two Castles.
Your book is just darling. It is a really, really sweet book and a sweet way of talking about divorce. What led you to write this book?
Well, I’m actually one of those individuals. I have actually been divorced twice and when I went through my first divorce back in 2008, I only had two daughters at the time who were four and a half and seven and a half, and my main concern back then was how on earth was I going to tell them? They were my world and I so desperately wanted to get it right. At the time I reached out to my church that I went to and they loaned me a book to read to my daughters. I remember having their dad meet us at a park and we went off in a treat area and I read my little girls this book and they obviously hated the day, because no child is going to embrace that day with excitement, but to make matters worse, they hated the book and I was not able to soften that blow.
So years and years later, I am then walking through a second divorce and there’s double the pressure on me as a parent because I felt like double the failure because I was going through divorce number two and now I had to look another little girl in the eyes because I now had a third daughter, who at that point was five, and tell her that her father and I are going to be getting a divorce. At this point, my two oldest daughters, who were so little when I had told them so many years ago who had been four and a half and seven and a half, at this point were now almost out of high school and entering high school, still very much remembered that day and still very much remembered that book, all with very negative emotions. I remember thinking to myself, “If a book has that much impact on a child on such a very important day, boy I’ve got to get it right.”
So at that point I reached out to the counselor at my youngest daughter’s school asking if she could recommend a resource, because I knew I had to get it right this time and I wanted to soften the blow. And she did not have a resource in her office, but recommended one to be on Amazon. And it came in and I just remember sitting home alone in my apartment and sitting in front of my nightstand just staring at the cover of this book and just being put off is the only way I know how to describe it. And I thought, “No, it’s been recommended to me,” and so I thumbed through the beginning of the book reading it and I just shut it because I knew in my heart this was not the way to go about it, or at least at that point, not the way I wanted to facilitate that conversation with my little girl. And so at some point soon thereafter, I sat down and wrote what so many family law firms and therapists are now carrying in their firms, which is One Princess Two Castles.
And what is the core of… What I love about your book is the core of the message. So what is the core of the message that you want to share?
Children need special attention to process the emotions of a divorce
All right, so I wanted a way to explain to young children not necessarily the mechanics of a divorce, but the emotions behind it. I wanted a way to give a child’s heart permission to hurt because we know that no matter what you do, their heart is going to hurt, their lives are changing, there’s a lot of question marks. But I also wanted a way to give that child’s heart an unapologetic permission to feel very excited about spending time with both parents because at the end of the day, regardless of what is happening, that is still that person’s father and still that person’s mother, or that child’s mother, and they don’t deserve any of this. They deserve to believe that both parents are their heroes and they need to feel very secure and excited about spending time with them.
And I also wanted to communicate to both child and parent a phrase that would really help them to embrace the different. And in my book there’s a phrase that says “things will be different, but things will be good,” because I am a firm believer that no matter how dark the circumstances, something good can come from something like divorce. It is truly a matter of looking for that, and that applies to both parent and child. And I want them to realize that just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad, that there are many things that are different that are still very, very good.
Well, I think that’s a really important life lesson overall because so often when we’re facing a change, just the fact that it’s a change is what is scary because it’s the unknown. But oftentimes if we look for the good, we will find the good in the change and I think helping the parents as well as the children kind of put the focus on all the good things that will happen is such an important message. There are positive aspects in a divorce of course and sometimes we need the right mentality to find those positive aspects. Who is your book designed for? Obviously we can tell it’s structured, it’s got a little princess on the front and it’s talking about princess, but really who is the book designed for and who will benefit from the book?
That’s a great question and I get that a lot. So number one, it’s targeted for children ages four to nine. I will tell you that a three year old that is read to a lot could definitely still benefit from this book. All three of my girls were immersed in books from early on, so they would’ve been fine. I will also tell you that I get the question, “Okay, does this book apply to both boys and girls?” And I will tell you yes. Two reasons, so number one, as an educator, there’s a book series that we often read to younger students and the main character is a girl in the story, but the boys students love it just as much as the girls. And there is nothing that this princess does in our book, or my book, that a little boy would not typically do. It’s not gender specific. She rides roller coasters, she does crafts, she reads books, all the things that typically both genders do.
So it’s definitely not gender specific. And I have gotten feedback from another family law firm that has said, “Absolutely it does apply to both boys and girls.” And I just really believe that, wholeheartedly, that this book, One Princess Two Castles, that I’ve written gives so many children, I mean we are talking about a massive population out there, a character that they can actually identify with who has been through a difficult time and has come through on the other side. So your children that it’s not necessarily even just the ones that are going through like a SAPCR case or a divorce case, it could be they’ve gone through it years ago or even a modification because we know even in a modification case, things are changing, whether it’s child support, whether it’s visitation.
But as parents, our heart oftentimes heals way before the children, and that’s always going to be a little spot in their heart. So if they have this book to refer back to about, “Oh, there is good things that come from this,” I just think that it’s so healthy. I got a message from a single father last year who had been divorced for many years and he said, “Amy, every time my second grade daughter is coming to my house, she is pulling out this book and reading it.” And that’s when it hit me. It just really resonates in these children’s hearts, a message of hope that they really do need as these years go by.
Divorce is a transtion.
And one of the things that people worry about is the impact of divorce on children, and one of the things we’ve learned from the mental health professionals and then I’ve had the opportunity to see in my own practice is that divorce is a transition, and transition is hard like any transition, but the destruction of divorce comes from the conflict, it comes from the badmouthing the parents, allowing the children to really feel the contempt and disdain that parents have for each other. And that’s why I think your book does such a good job of reminding us of the importance of the message that the child gets to love both parents and really inviting the child to foster that. I think your book is lovely and it’s such a good reminder just as the adults that are leading the child through the divorce process.