A Book and a Bear Comfort Children of Divorce
BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times March 20, 2008
by Philip K. Jason
For the children of divorce, life changes in challenging, dramatic, and often traumatic ways. These children have to process an enormous sense of loss, usually accompanied by guilt. And divorce is not something that happens one day and is over the next; the ramifications are ongoing and complex. Two Neapolitans, Wendy Lokken and Heather Drescher, are part of the team behind a fascinating project that helps children regain a sense of security while navigating this hazardous emotional journey. “You and Me Make Three” is a book that can make a positive difference in the life of any child coping with the disorientation and loss of parents divorcing.
B. B. the Bear is the narrator of the book, a cuddly friend, confidant, and counselor. The idea of B. B. was inspired by Wendy Lokken’s son, Michael, who had learned about “worry dolls” at school and suggested that every child coping with divorce needed a “worry doll,” a source of comfort much like Michael’s own Cozy Bear. Lokken shared this insight with her friend and eventual co-author, Gwendy Mangiamele, who realized that her daughter Mia has fastened upon her own floppy dog named Sheila as an imaginary traveling friend who provided constancy whether at Mom’s home or at and Dad’s. Lokken and Mangiamele teamed up with author-publisher Edna Cucksey Stephens and illustrator Heather Drescher to develop Caring Creations and launch the book and the comforting toy, B. B. the Bear.
B. B.’s consoling and supportive language is just right. The observations and suggestions made by this caring companion are accessible to kids, and yet the young readers are not patronized. This friendly bear is convincing when he says that even though Mom and Dad now live in separate homes, both still love their child. The bear is always available to hear the child’s secrets and jokes and to play “let’s pretend” with the child. Also, together they can help Mom with various tasks when visiting her, and help Dad with tasks when over at his place. Homework and personal hygiene need attention at both homes. The young reader is reminded that other kids are also going through the divorce experience.
B. B. assures the child that “it is not your fault” that the parents have decided to divorce, and that when things cannot be worked out it is better for everyone if the parents live apart. The love of each parent is a constant, and the love felt for each parent needs expression. B. B. also encourages the child of divorce to let his or her feelings out – to talk about them both to the parents and, of course, to B. B. Coping with loneliness is also addressed in specific, constructive ways.
The book has a second audience. Each issue in B.B.’s discussion is also recast in a boxed “SMILE Tip for Parents.” These tips, derived from Richard S. Victor’s Victor Smile Foundation, are as valuable to the divorced parents as B. B.’s observations are to the children of divorce. The parents are reminded that the greatest gift they can give the child is the right to love the other parent. Because of the incorporated Smile Tips, “You and Me Make Three” can be read by parent and child together.
“You and Me Make Three” is lavishly produced, and the vivid, energetic illustrations by Heather Drescher work perfectly to establish the mood and tone of the book. It is a book that should be in every grade school library and in the libraries of guidance counselors and professional family therapists as well. But most of all, it needs to be in the hands of the child whose world is threatened by divorce.
The release of this very special book was celebrated on March 12 at the International Kids Network benefit event held at the Naples Ritz Carlton. Upcoming appearances and book signings are Saturday, March 15th, 11am to 1pm at the Naples Borders Bookstore; Saturday, March 22, 11am to 3pm at the Naples Books-A-Million; and Saturday, March 29th at the Naples Barnes and Noble. You can find out more about this brilliant and much-needed book and bear project by visiting the website http://www.bbseries.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.