Divorce is difficult, especially for kids. Nadine Haruni, author of the Mom's Choice award-winning children's book series, "Freeda the Frog™", knows this well, as she has been divorced, has two children with her ex-husband, and three step-children with her second husband.
We had the opportunity to speak with Nadine, and our interview follows:
DivorceForce: Nadine, for starters, can you share some aspects of your divorce and your new blended family?
Nadine: When my ex-husband and I separated, our children were very young—1 and 4 years old. It was a very difficult situation, and we also had to work out the particulars of separating the business that we were partners in as well. Being a single mom, juggling work, and life in general, was certainly not an easy task. I started dating my now-husband sometime thereafter, who had three teenage girls (at the time, ages 9, 13, and 15). While blending a family can be difficult and is not without challenges, my current husband and I were lucky in that his kids were very accepting of me, and my children of him. Although there is quite a large age difference, the kids immediately got along well and now love each other as if they were siblings from birth.
DivorceForce: Tell us a bit about "Freeda the Frog™." What ages is it targeted for? What is the message to children of this age group?
Nadine: The "Freeda the Frog™" series is mainly directed toward kids ages 3 to 11 years old; however, even some of my children's older friends have enjoyed the books simply because of the messages they deliver (despite being picture books). The books in the series are sequential, but each has a specific focus on a particular subject matter, and addresses a variety of different issues that children face.
The first book is entitled, "Freeda the Frog Gets a Divorce" and, as the title implies, is geared toward helping children whose parents are divorced or separated be able to understand and cope with what is happening, recognize that they are not alone, and realize that both of their parents will continue to love them (even if they are living in two separate homes).
The second book of the series was recently released, and is entitled "Freeda the Frog and Her New Blue Family." In this follow-up book, Freeda meets a nice blue frog who has a blue tadpole; they fall in love, and get married. This book is geared toward helping kids understand their feelings if a parent should get re-married (and now they have a step-parent and maybe step-siblings as well). The message here is to help foster acceptance of blended and mixed families, whether they be of mixed race, religion, or ethnicity. The books are not only geared toward parents to give to their own children, or for a family member or friend to buy for a child whose parents are divorced (or re-married), but have also been used as tools by school psychologists and child therapists to introduce the divorce topic into discussions with their young patients.
In the next book from the series, Freeda and her new (larger) family will find that their lily pad is getting a little too small, so they need to move to a larger pad. This book will have a wider net of appeal, as it will help children to focus on their feelings about moving to a new town or a new school, which is a rather common situation that a lot of kids find themselves in (whether they have divorced parents or not).
Some of the future books in the series will include topics such as adoptive families, a death of a grandparent, gay families, and special needs or disabled/sick family members. Once the series is completed, I am hopeful that most children out there will be able to relate to at least one of the topic choices and be helped by reading it.
DivorceForce: You are an extremely busy person as a mother, step-mother, attorney, and yoga instructor. How did you have time to write this book, and why were you so motivated to so?
Nadine: Ironically, I wrote the first draft of this book well before I had even met my ex-husband, let alone had children. I had always had a passion for writing and took a college course in 1998 called Writing and Illustrating Children's Books, which was a sort of soup-to-nuts course in how to put together all the moving parts of a children's book, to get it ready to be published. Even though I had finished a draft of the book in 1998, I was busy with work and other life distractions and kept it filed away to pursue getting published for a "rainy day" in the future. That rainy day came after I finished my divorce, and during a weekend when the children were with their father. I pulled the first draft out of my filing cabinet and began editing and tweaking some things. The motivation to get this first book published came when I realized that there was not a plethora of books out there geared toward explaining divorce to children, and few that were written on a child's level.
DivorceForce: The main character of the book is named Freeda. You have a mother named Frieda. Why the obvious name similarities? In what ways is Freeda like Frieda?
Nadine: My mother, Frieda, aka the original "Freeda," was the first one in her family to be divorced, and even though I was older, I experienced some similar feelings and issues that the younger readers of my books might be going through. Frieda and Freeda are similar in that they are both loving, supportive moms, who want to help their children understand that they are not alone and they have many people (including themselves) who their children can turn to, to express how they feel.
DivorceForce: As a mother, a divorcee, and step-mother, what have you learned that is most important with regard to making a beautiful life for your children and stepchildren as they, too, deal with divorce?
Nadine: Even though being divorced is clearly not the ideal situation or what anyone hopes for, things will be okay as long as you have a good support network and are surrounded by friends and people who love you. I try to teach my kids to not be bogged down by focusing on the negative aspects, but to instead practice gratitude by appreciating all that they have—wonderful parents and step-parents who love them, some new "bonus" siblings, and a great support network.
Nadine Haruni can be followed on her Facebook page, on Twitter @FreedaTheFrog, and on Instagram at FreedaTheFrog. You can find information about events and information about the books by going to her website at www.freedathefrog.com, or you can find Nadine’s Freeda the Frog™ book series here.