Divorce is a subject that is discussed all around us, but it isn’t often seen in a realistic sense or in a positive light. Most of the time, TV shows and movies that include divorce speak about it in a broad sense: Mom and Dad are divorced. It is often left at that, leaving kids to wonder what divorce is and why it happened. Older children might wonder if what their parents are going through is their fault, or if there was something they could have done to prevent it.
Thankfully, there are a lot of TV shows and movies that tackle the topic of divorce in a healthy way and provide kids with ways to cope and work through what they’re feeling.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
In this episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mister Rogers tackles the topic of divorce and explains to his young viewers that divorce is a “grown-up issue,” and not their fault. In the episode, after meeting a little girl whose parents are divorced, Prince Tuesday from the town of Make-Believe is worried that his parents are headed in the same direction and wishes that he didn’t have feelings so he wouldn’t experience the emotions he was feeling. Mister Rogers assures him that ignoring those feelings won’t be good for him and that addressing and working through his emotions is better than pretending it isn’t happening.
Girl Meets World
“Girl Meets the Forgiveness Project”
In this episode of Girl Meets World, Maya sits across the table from the father that abandoned her and her mother when she was a little girl. Her father explains that he wasn’t ready for them, and that “when you know you’re not good for people, you start not showing up, and then you don’t show up enough times and it begins to feel like leaving… until you do.” Maya believes that her father leaving was her fault because of something she didn’t do, but her father tells her that it didn’t have anything to do with her. This is a great episode for kids dealing with abandonment issues and can show young viewers that there are other kids experiencing the problems and emotions as them.
Night at the Museum
Although this movie’s primary story line is about museum exhibits coming to life at night, there is an important message for children of divorce. In the movie, Larry Daley, a divorced and unemployed father, looks for a job so that he can provide and set an example for his son. He takes a job as a night security guard at the Natural History Museum in New York City, hoping that the gig will create some stability in his life, as well as show his son that he cares about him. The plot in this movie does not solely focus on Larry’s divorce or his son’s experience, but it shows some of the struggles that children of divorce go through. Being able to see this on screen can help kids see that they’re not alone in their experiences.
“Little Children, Big Challenges – Divorce”
Sesame Street’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” is a resource that provides adults with the tools to explain hard topics to children aged 2-5. This segment tackles things like general resilience, divorce, bullying, and incarceration. In the divorce video, we see Elmo, Rosita, and Abby drawing pictures. Abby explains that she’s drawing two pictures: the house she lives in with her mom, and the house she lives in with her dad. Confused, Elmo asks her why she doesn’t live in one house with both of her parents. Gordon explains to Elmo that Abby’s parents are divorced. Abby goes on to say that her parents told her they had grown-up problems that they can’t fix, but that they still love her very much. This is an important resource for kids, as it shows clips of real children whose parents went through a divorce and the emotions they felt throughout the process. Sesamestreet.org even has a divorce toolkit that parents can use to help their child cope with the divorce process.
Sesame Street Divorce Toolkit
“Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight”
In this episode of Arthur, Arthur and D.W. overhear their parents arguing over a spilled jar of milk. Arthur and D.W. begin blaming themselves for the fight and start imagining scenarios where their parents refuse to speak to each other, where one parent moves out, where their parents get partial custody of the three of them and where their parents don’t want any of them. This episode is a good example for parents and children. For kids, it’s a good visualization that people fight, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. It’s a good lesson for parents as well. Kids catch on to more than you think they do. When you and your spouse or co-parent argue, there’s a chance that your kids are listening and soaking in whatever you’re talking (or yelling) about. Be wary of your behavior around your kids.
The families in “Modern Family” are definitely modern, but anything but traditional. A mockumentary style TV show, Modern Family follows a large, blended, multi-cultural, loving family that deals with all the issues normal, everyday families face. This show can be helpful for kids that are in non-traditional households and allow them to see on-screen families that look like theirs.
Drake and Josh
Drake and Josh is a lighter, more comedic style show, but it shows a blended family that goes through some pretty hilarious hijinks and complicated sibling and stepsibling relationships. Although this show doesn’t tackle the subject of divorce in a deep sense, it shows the normalcy of divorce and the effort that the kids’ parents go to in order to create a stable household for their children.
Llama Llama does not feature divorced parents or co-parents, but it features a single mother who raises Llama Llama by herself with the help of his grandparents. Llama Llama’s father is never mentioned in the show, even in an episode about Father’s Day. It normalizes single motherhood and doesn’t demand an explanation about why she is single. For kids, as well as single parents, this is very important representation. It doesn’t make them question if their family is “normal.” It doesn’t make it seem like they’re not whole without the other parent. For younger children especially, this is an important show to watch.
Being able to see a family that looks like yours or a family that is going through the same issues as yours can be important for a child. The on-screen representation can passively teach a child how to cope with their emotions and, if their parents are going through a divorce, can help them understand that the “grown-up” problems their parents are dealing with have nothing to do with them and doesn’t mean that they don’t love them any less. These TV shows and movies can make a huge difference in your child’s emotional development and processing skills.
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