Book Review: Now What Do I Do? A Guide to Help Teenagers with Their Parents' Separation or Divorce

Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski wrote this book in 2006 to share her own experiences and help teens deal with the feelings that naturally accompany the family changes that divorce brings with it. She is also the author of "Making Your Way After Your Parents' Divorce," and the founder of Faith Journeys Foundation.

Now What Do I Do? is a workbook to help teens identify and process their feelings, and provide comfort as well as strategies to handle feeling guilty, ashamed, lonely, sad, and left out of an absent parents life. This book is the most appropriate for Christian-identified youth who have experienced a divorce in which one of their parents becomes an absent parent. There is nothing in this book about families that divorce and then attempt to co-parent on a daily basis or share daily or weekly custody. There also is nothing about gay, lesbian, or alternative family structures of any kind, limiting the audience.

The strengths of this book include her suggestions for letting anger out, understanding and encouraging forgiveness, and some great communication guidelines, particularly in Chapter 5. She acknowledges that parents should be the adults and responsible for keeping the communication healthy, but some parents cannot "be there" for their kids during divorce, and she basically says, get over it and learn how to be a healthy communicator for your own sake.

A couple of things I wish the author focused more on are that all of the feelings teens experience are "normal," and getting teens into a group or working with a counselor is really important. Parents see their kids through a "filter" of their own experiences and most teens need an outsider to help them stay out of the issues related to the divorce and the middle of any conflict. I personally do not believe teens have any place talking about infidelity, emotional maturity of parents, or the emotional baggage parents bring into relationships. I also was concerned that this author suggests that the impact of divorce will give the teens baggage in their own relationships, and never get over their grief, which does not give them much hope.

My own advice is that parents not talk to teens about the reasons the relationship failed or any of the conflict surrounding money, new relationships, or parenting decisions. Kids will be happier and healthier if parents handle the conflict and encourage kids to have the healthiest relationship they can with the other parent. Every child is better off having as many positive relationships with adults as they can, and each parent is responsible for supporting the relationship with the other parent.

There should never be any bad-mouthing or anger in front of the kids - and that is a bottom line. Granted, some parents are unable to do this, because they are depressed, or unable for whatever reason to move on with their own lives, and if that is the case, the children should be encouraged to seek the support of their counselors and other adults to set limits and boundaries on the negative behavior.

Divorce is tough on every family and the more resources we can provide our teens, the better. This is a good resource for teens who relate it to the situation of having a newly absent parent and identify as Christian.

Photo credit: Brian Teutsch
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