blog |  bio |  book |  info for parents, family, friends |  info for professionals |  consult/train/speak |  resources |  contact |  home    

the book

overview  |  chapter summary  |  reviews  |  buy the book

Putting Children First:

Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce
By JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D.
Publication: Avery/Penguin, 2010

NAPPA Gold Award, 2010, National Parenting Publications Awards 2010 Mom's Choice Awards® Gold Recipient

chapter by chapter summary of content

Chapter One
“My Divorce” – What children say and what they mean

With astonishing frequency, children refer to the end of their parents’ marriage as “my divorce.” Although they often hide their feelings from their parents, in the safety of a therapist’s office or a support group, they often express deep feelings of loss and overwhelming worry about “What’s going to happen to me?” Dr. Pedro-Carroll reveals the often-hidden feelings children experience and the beliefs they hold, including the common but mistaken conviction that they caused their parents’ divorce, or the fear that a parent may stop loving them, too. She offers guidance on how to interpret children’s words and behaviors at various developmental stages and how to communicate effectively with them in ways that strengthen the parent-child bonds and foster children’s resilience.

Chapter Two
Risk and Resilience – The Potential Impact of Divorce over Time

Many children feel the effects of their parents’ divorce throughout their lives, and too many suffer grave consequences—social, emotional, and academic problems, and often an inability to form loving partnerships of their own as adults. The risks are many, and the notion that children are automatically resilient just because they are young is a popular but mistaken idea.

There is good news, however. Resilience is based largely on a set of skills that can be taught and circumstances that can be managed. In this chapter, parents learn how to reduce the risks for their children and how to help them become resilient. This chapter provides personal accounts from long-term follow-up with families and includes research into the factors that put children in jeopardy of enduring problems, and those that help them to thrive in the face of divorce and major family changes.

Chapter Three
Telling the Children and Preparing Them for Changes

Parents’ initial explanation of their expected divorce is very important, and there are reassurances that children urgently need to hear. The most important message of all: “Whatever changes take place between us, we will always be your parents. Both of us love you very much, and the kind of love we have for you is the kind that will never end.” This is the foundation for all of the explanations and discussions that follow throughout the days, weeks, years, and decades following a divorce. And of course these words need to be backed up with consistent behavior and action.

Added to this bedrock message are many others that parents can use to help their children understand and adjust to the changes in their lives. This chapter provides information and even sample “scripts” that parents can use as developmentally appropriate guides for sharing the difficult news of their divorce with their children at various ages.

Chapter Four
Parenting Plans: Positive Approaches to Difficult Decisions

Parenting plans are at the heart of the practical issues for no-longer-married partners who still need to raise their children. This chapter begins by offering an overview of the legal options generally available to parents. Its primary focus, however, is on the factors that have proven to influence the success of shared parenting when the parents no longer live together.

Dr. Pedro-Carroll offers advice and samples of schedules for each developmental age and explains how to create and manage child-focused, developmentally tailored parenting plans that minimize confusion and stress for children and enable them to maintain positive relationships with both parents. All recommendations are based on a substantial body of research and extensive experience working with children and their parents.

Chapter Five
Taking Control of Conflict and Taking Care of Yourself

As couples grieve the loss of their marriage, strong emotions often erupt or hover just beneath the surface. Turbulent emotions often make it difficult to resolve differences calmly. Constant exposure to unresolved conflict can be perilous for children, so it is critical for parents to learn how to manage it.

This chapter is densely packed with research-based information and proven ways to manage anger, restructure the relationship to a professional parenting partnership, understand and use parallel and cooperative parenting strategies, communicate, solve problems, and learn forgiveness over time. In addition, Dr. Pedro-Carroll describes the importance of self-care, especially during times of stress, and offers a number of ways that parents can promote their own health and well-being.

Chapter Six:
Building Children’s Resilience Skills

Research has yielded solid evidence about the external factors and core emotional skills that help children to develop resilience during difficult times. Parents can exercise control over many of the factors that influence children and can teach and model critical skills that reduce children’s anxiety and strengthen their ability to deal with family changes and challenges. Dr. Pedro-Carroll lays out specific, practical advice on how to develop the core emotional skills that lead to children’s healthy adjustment and resilience: self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, ability to solve interpersonal problems, optimism, self-motivation, persistence, and hope for the future. She also provides advice on how to help soothe and reassure children and correct their misconceptions, including a number of games and creative activities that parents can use to strengthen the emotional bonds with their children.

Chapter Seven:
Emotionally Intelligent Parenting Before, During and After Divorce

Quality parenting—by both parents—is a proven source of resilience in children, including those whose parents divorce. Exactly what is quality parenting? At its very core are two critical elements: love and limits. Children need both. This chapter provides research-based information about positive parenting practices, and then offers clear, practical advice about how to provide emotionally intelligent parenting during and after a divorce.

Emotionally intelligent parenting that provides abundant love and consistent limits occurs in countless small, everyday interactions as well as times of crisis or big decisions. Communicating often and effectively, listening responsively, responding empathetically, managing conflict respectfully, establishing positive discipline and clear expectations for behavior, and affirming children’s efforts and behaviors that reflect positive values are all part of quality parenting on a daily basis. Above all, repeatedly telling and showing children how much they are loved and reinforcing those words with physical affection make an enormous difference for children.

Chapter Eight
New Relationships, Dating and Remarriage—How the Children See Them

Parents and children often have dramatically different perspectives on new relationships and remarriages. Adults have compelling reasons to become involved in new relationships after divorce and it is natural for them to want to feel loved, desirable and passionate again.

For children, however, new relationships means more change, more adjustments (often huge ones), and a set of complex emotions—loss of their dream of parents’ reconciliation, worry about losing a special place in a parent’s heart, confusion about how to remain loyal to their “real” parent –and many more challenges and mixed emotions, especially if the new stepparent has children, too.

This chapter provides parents with some understanding of children’s often-hidden perspectives and strategies for preparing children for a new relationship and for moving forward as a family.

Chapter Nine
Life After Divorce—Real Possibilities for Success

In this final chapter, Dr. Pedro-Carroll tells the stories of three families who navigated huge changes, grief and many other difficult emotions of divorce, yet ultimately managed to put their children first. Years later, all of their offspring are well adjusted and thriving in most aspects of their lives. They are proof that when parents focus on their children, listen to the feelings behind their words and actions, contain their own conflict, provide quality parenting—with all that implies— take care of themselves, and, if they enter into new romantic relationships do so slowly and carefully, they provide a foundation for their children’s healthy adjustment. Despite the pain and difficulties and dark days they all experienced, they never gave up hope, and never stopped trying, learning, and growing. They are a source of hope and inspiration.



"Putting Children First provides an abundance of useful information for parents who are divorced, thinking about divorce, or in the process of divorcing. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll is a highly respected psychologist, researcher, and developer of programs for children.

She draws on scientific research as well as her own clinical experience to provide clear guidelines for parents based on the best available evidence about what works. I strongly recommend this book to parents as well as mental health and legal professionals who work with children from divorced families."

-Paul R. Amato, Arnold and Bette Hoffman Professor of Family Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University

read more reviews...



bio | book | info for parents, family, friends | info for professionalsconsult/train/speakevents | resources & links  | contact
2010 JoAnne Pedro-Carroll