Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask]
From toddlers to young teens--here are
the hidden messages behind the questions
children are asking and how to answer them
with honesty and love.
by Meg F. Schneider
and Joan Zuckerberg, Ph.D.

  • Your four-year-old asks, "Why isn't Daddy home? Where did he go?"
  • Your ten-year-old asks, "Are you going to get married again soon?"
  • Your fifteen-year-old asks, "What am I going to tell my friends?"
This invaluable book fully explores the apparent and hidden fears that haunt children as they weather the painful confusion of a divorce. Difficult Questions Kids Ask -- and Are Too Afraid to Ask -- About Divorce shows parents how to:
  • Talk with their children about divorce
  • Tell the truth without frightening the children
  • Use words to strengthen the parent-child relationship
  • Keep the lines of communication open throughout the entire divorce experience
Children are often too scared or anxious to ask what they truly need to know. In a question-and-answer dialogue format, Schneider and Zuckerberg tackle children's concerns, teaching parents how to read between the lines all along the way.

[from the back cover]

Difficult Questions Kids Ask About Divorce

About the Authors

Meg F. Schneider is the Editorial Director of Skylight Press, a book-packaging company specializing in popular psychology, and is the author of several books.

Joan Zuckerberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, is a supervisor at the Brooklyn Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, Yeshiva University, and the National Institute for psychotherapy. Both authors live in New York City.

[from the back cover]

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Open Dialogues Heal  11

Part I
Making Questions Possible
1. There's No Such Thing as a Simple Question  21
2. Facing Your Own Questions First  43
3. How to Help Your Child Open Up  59

Part II
The Questions
4. How to Use What Follows  79
5. The Dark Days Before the Break  83
6. As the Separation Takes Place 108
7. Around, During and Just After the Divorce 136
8. Dating in Front of the Children 158
9. As the Years Pass: Communicating "Long-Distance" 176
10. Life Questions 203



[from the soft bound edition]


"A sensible and substantive guide that will help parents and children navigate the straits of divorce."

--Dr. Bonnie Maslin, author of
The Angry Marriage: Overcoming the Rage, Reclaiming the Love

[from the back cover]

Read more reviews of this book on the
Amazon.com website:
Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask]
About Divorce

Difficult Questions Kids Ask About Divorce on Amazon.com


Children are deeply intuitive about parents' feelings. They can sense when something is making a parent distressed or uncomfortable. Unfortunately, especially for younger children, "distressed" and "uncomfortable" are not easily understood words or feelings. So they may conclude that the parent is simply angry with them. That their questions are annoying. And that if they continue to ask them, the parent will become irritated and leave forever.

If a child is not afraid of angering the parent, he may be afraid of hurting him, or of what will happen if the child doesn't take care of him. "Are you sad?" might get swallowed up and replaced with "Want to read a book?" The child may have seen the parent visibly upset, perhaps even crying. This can be terrifying to a child. If the parent is this upset, then who is in control? Who can make things okay? Is the child supposed to be the adult now? Terrified at the thought that the parent may not be able to stay in charge, the child would rather swallow his questions than find himself the head of the household.

Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask] About Divorce

page 29

You can't fake listening. You know when a friend is giving you her full attention and when her mind is elsewhere. You know it intuitively from the look in her eye, her body language and the words she chooses to acknowledge what you are saying. Children pick up these things as well.

The most important thing that you need to project to your child when she is talking is acceptance. This is different from approval or agreement. Those things are important and, if honestly felt, make a child feel good. But acceptance of how she feels and what she thinks is most critical, because it allows her to be who she is, independent of what you are or think. She knows she doesn't have to say or do what you want, for her to be appreciated. Following are some things you can do to show your child that you accept her for who she is and what she feels.

  • Use your body, not just your eyes, when talking with your child. Put down the newspaper when she approaches you. Turn away from the television when you sense your child is trying to tell you something other than the fact that she's finished her her homework. Give your child the kind of full attention she can see as well as feel.
  • Let her finish. Don't interrupt. Don't jump into the middle of her thoughts with your own interpretations. "Yes. I know what you mean. It's like..." just won't do. The act of getting the words out is just as important as knowing what they are and that one wants to say them. Your child deserves and needs the release of expressing her own thoughts, her way, in her own time.
  • Encourage her to feel that you're listening and to continue, by nodding and saying such things as, "I see," "Mmmm, hmmm" or "Go on." She will interpret these comments as proof that you are indeed paying attention.
  • Acknowledge your child's right to her feelings, no matter how it makes you feel or what you think she should think. Comments such as "That's silly," or "You couldn't have felt like that," or "You should never feel that way," are forms of denial. They are a way of telling your child that what she feels is "wrong." The goal should be for her to know she is entitled to her feelings, whatever they might be.
  • Offer reflective statements. These are observations that indicate you are listening and "getting it." "I can see you feel very frustrated," or "You are feeling very angry," are examples. Be careful, however, not to overstate an emotion. "You are absolutely furious!" or "You feel so horrible!" while seemingly warm and emotional, are theatrical statements. You don't want to respond to the potential drama of a situation. You want to respond to the core feeling.

Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask] About Divorce

pages 69-70

You and your wife have been arguing intensely in the house. Each time the two of you go at it, your thirteen-year-old runs into his room and slams the door.

Wait for a quiet time with your adolescent or teen. Don't try to grab him directly after a fight, when he might be feeling extremely raw. Don't squeeze it in between his activities so that he has a perfect excuse to cry "Gotta go! I'm late!" And don't do it just when you're in the mood to face his defenses. Rather, wait to catch your child in a moment of calm. He might be in his room, reading, or sharing a light dinner with just you or your wife as well.

"Look," you might begin. "I know Mom and I have been fighting a lot. I'm sorry you have to hear it. It must be very upsetting."

If your adolescent says, "I don't care," with a major-league shrug, respect his defense but make it clear you aren't fooled.

"I have a feeling that's not entirely true," you might say. "It's not pleasant hearing your parents talk to each other the way we do. If you don't want to talk about this right now it's okay, but I'd be happy to another time. Mom and I are definitely having our problems and the there isn't any reason for us to pretend we're not. This happens sometimes in a marriage."

You will also want to offer a quick statement about what you're doing to correct things. "Mom and I are working on it and we hope to get through this rough period soon. We don't like the situation either."

By talking frankly and openly to your child you may not inspire him to ask a lot of questions and express his fears, but you will begin to take the "unspeakable" edge off the situation. Your willingness to talk and acceptance of the problem as a part of your life will help him begin to accept it as part of his. A part he doesn't have to shrink from. And a part he can be sad but hopeful about.

Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask] About Divorce

pages 89-90

[from the soft bound edition]

Read more about this book on the
Amazon.com website:
Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask]
About Divorce

Difficult Questions Kids Ask About Divorce on Amazon.com

Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask]
About Divorce

Schneider and Zuckerberg's book
Difficult Questions Kids Ask
[and are too afraid to ask]
About Divorce

may be purchased through Amazon.com.

Buy Schneider and Zuckerberg's Book

Other Books by
Meg F. Schneider

Learn more about these books also written by Meg F. Schneider:

Social Savvy:
A Teenager's Guide to Feeling Confident in Any Situation

25 Of the Best Parenting Techniques Ever

Help! My Teacher Hates Me

The Rules for Teens

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