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A psychiatrist's low-key run-through on the basics of psychological adjustment to divorce in children. Berger, formerly the medical director of a N.Y. treatment center for adolescents, speaks to age-related issues with some authority. Thus, egocentricity and magical thinking, which often make a child feel responsible for the divorce, are most pervasive in the Oedipal phase but can be a contributing factor through adolescence. By and large Berger advocates honesty--however painful--in describing the reasons for divorce, even in cases of alcoholism and marital infidelity. (Some parents, however, may draw the line at ""I don't know if daddy loves you,"" in the case of abandonment, or ""Daddy doesn't love mommy anymore. He wants to love men instead."") Children can survive the trauma of divorce, Berger maintains, so long as they are spared constant conflict--and so long as their parents put the children's needs first. This means no games--like making the children into spies, using visitation rights to get alimony or child support payments, etc. Though resumption of social life is up to the parent, Berger warns against a parade of casual dates, to avoid constant broken relationships. Serious relationships, on the other hand, are best introduced in a low-pressure environment like going to the movies. When denial or depression continue unabated over time, professional counseling is called for, and Berger adds some elemental tips on choosing one. Claudia Jewett's Helping Your Child Cope with Separation and Loss (1982) provides a fuller discussion of the psychological factors, but Berger's reassuring tone commends this as an overview of the issues.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin