The divorce helpbook for teens

This is a review of The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor

Teen angst compounded by the turmoil of divorcing parents is not a subject for the fainthearted to tackle. But MacGregor’s engaging style quickly establishes empathy with this challenging group, offering genuine warmth and reliable advice along with sensitivity to her readers’ many vulnerabilities. Her objective is not to function as a single-handed self-help guru; throughout the book she reminds kids to turn to trusted individuals in their lives for additional help. She maintains a thoughtful level of clear-headed reassurance, gently urging teens to think outside their pain and confusion to realize they’re not alone. This applies to all aspects of their experience of divorce, which MacGregor keenly understands as a uniquely stressful time for those “too young for childhood soothing and too young for adult stress relievers.” She offers age-appropriate comforts, effective ways to fight depression, and reasonable options for regaining the sense of security that divorce shatters.

What I like best about this book, aside from MacGregor’s unfailing instinct for zeroing in on issues crucial to teens, is her knack for relating to kids on a warm, nonjudgmental, respectfully informative way. Her attitude of compassionate practicality guides them — without preaching — to make wise choices. She counters common erroneous conclusions kids are apt to draw about divorce (I.e., it’s their fault Mom and Dad broke up; they can get Mom and Dad back together, etc.), with insightful reality checks that avoid making the reader feel patronized. She’s a staunch advocate, defending kids’ right to refuse to participate in unfair tactics (like being used as messengers or spies) their divorced parents may resort to. At the same time, she underscores the importance of preserving relationships where possible by meeting each parent halfway.

Smart exercises like keeping a journal help teens in pain to vent and sort out their emotions. MacGregor’s goal is to get kids to see that, while they can’t undo the divorce, they can avoid many of the resulting hassles. This sense of control is a crucial gift this skilled, empathetic author offers her readers. Know a teen of divorce who’s struggling to adjust? This book is a great starting point for clearing hurdles and moving forward.


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