Kids learn to bear divorce

March 13, 2008

It's no secret that divorce is hard on kids.

Wendy Lokken, co-author of ""You and Me Make Three"", knows the heartache families experience when they go separate ways.
""I am a child of divorce and I am divorced with children,"" Lokken said.
That's why Lokken, a Naples resident, joined authors Gwendy Mangiamele, Edna Cucksey Stephens and illustrator Heather Drescher to write a book for kids about divorce. They'll sign copies of the book this month at three Naples book stores.
Offered along with the book is a teddy bear named B.B. the Bear who offers comfort and a safe place to talk about feelings.
""I was raised in North Dakota and divorce was just something we never talked about,"" Lokken said.
She didn't want her son, Michael O'Dea, now 12, to suffer the same silence on the topic. She noticed that during the divorce, her son carried his favorite teddy bear between his parents' homes.
""Michael also learned about worry dolls in first grade and paralleled that with his cozy bear,"" she said. ""He blurted out that all kids going through divorce should have a worry doll.""
Co-author Mangiamele was also going through a divorce, when her young daughter, Mia Johnson, now 12, formed a strong attachment to a teddy bear.
That gave the authors the idea to include a teddy bear with their book.
""There just wasn't something positive for the kids and parents in one component,"" Lokken said.
The book creates a dialogue with kids about divorce using B.B. the Bear and also gives parents tips on each page.
""B.B. gives kids a voice,"" she said. ""It brings things to the surface in a comforting way. It promotes conversation.""
Lokken wishes her parents had talked about their divorce.
""There were never words about divorce my whole life,"" she said. ""But if you don't talk about it, children create their own reasons. They think they know why their parents got divorced.""
Sandra Thomas Brock, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Pine Ridge Middle School in Naples, thinks it's a great resource for children to work through their fears, concerns and emotions.
""The book does a nice job teaching and comforting while discussing a 'tender topic' that many children face today,"" Brock said.
And that was Lokken's intention.
""I want children of divorce to know they are not alone and they can talk about it. That's the message in the book.""