The Truth About Children and Divorce

truth divorce———


The Truth About Children and Divorce:
Dealing with the Emotions so You and Your Children can Thrive

By Robert Emery, PhD (2004)




What the Book is About:

This useful book is based on 25 years of groundbreaking psychological research. Dr. Emery presents a lucid, practical, and compelling case for all parents going through divorce to put their children’s needs first so that children can be resilient, heal, and eventually thrive themselves.

Emery writes, “This book offers you a new understanding of this crucial time [divorce] and shows you how to take steps toward building a new life and how to lay the foundation for a respectful (if, in some cases, a distant), low-conflict relationship with your ex and continuous involvement with your kids (4).”

Dr. Emery experienced a divorce from his first wife in 1989 when his daughter was school age. He later remarried. So he not only speaks from 25 years of clinical research (he is a trained psychologist and a professional mediator and professor) but from a powerful personal platform as well.

“I am convinced,” he writes, “that professionals like me now have a more realistic, more nuanced, and in many ways a more hopeful picture of the prospects for children in divorce (5).”

Emery walks his reader through so many practical details ranging from managing one’s own emotions as a parent, to grieving the loss of one’s marriage, to the tasks of divorce, to telling your kids you are separating, and to creating parenting plans related to legal custody and time with your children, among other things.

He speaks to three different general divorce situations as headings to communicate subtle and sometimes substantial differences in how to handle emotions, children, and legal decisions. He groups divorcing parents into cooperative, distant, and angry. He utilizes these three types of divorces helpfully throughout the book as he makes numerous practical suggestions for parents who find themselves in any one of, or moving somewhat between, these types of relationships.

Keith’s Reflections:

Emery’s open and accepting approach is warm, inviting, and hopeful. He clearly acknowledges the confusion and often the pain all children endure when their parents no longer love each other and end their marriage, but he consistently holds out hope for children if their parents can follow his teaching and put their kids’ needs first. He focuses on how resilient all children are and how much parents can help their children by dealing first with their own feelings, and then being present to their children’s.

“The fact is, even if you have failed at your marriage, you can succeed at divorce. While some may feel that all divorces are bad, the fact is there are better divorces and there are worse divorces. Children fare better in a divorce when parents work together cooperatively and limit their children’s exposure to conflict. Dozens of studies, including my own, have found this to be true (5).”

I found Emery’s book to be inspiring and useful. Emery paints a realistic yet hopeful picture both for parents and children in the midst of an otherwise disappointing and often painful experience.

I recommend this book to all divorcing parents whose primary concern is the well-being of their children. Emery will provide guidance, wisdom, and tools you will need and use while going through your divorce, and for many years thereafter.

The Author:

Robert Emery, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia. He also is an associate faculty member in the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy, and was Director of Clinical Training from 1993-2002. He received his B.A. from Brown University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.  He has served or is serving on the editorial board of eleven professional journals, and he has been a member of the Social Sciences and Population grant review study section of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Emery’s research focuses on family relationships and children’s mental health, including parental conflict, divorce, child custody, family violence, and associated legal and policy issues.  His 1982 Psychological Bulletin paper, “Interparental Conflict and the Children of Discord and Divorce,” was designated a “Citation Classic” by the Institute for Scientific Information with over 320 citations as of April 1993 (over 700 as of January 2000).  His Child Development paper, “Family Members as Third Parties in Dyadic Family Conflict: Strategies, Alliances, and Outcomes” (with Samuel Vuchinich and Jude Cassidy), won the 1989 “Outstanding Research Publication Award” from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. In December 2000, he was asked to present his research findings to the National Academy of Sciences. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts presented the “Distinguished Researcher” and “Myer Elkin Address” awards to Dr. Emery in 2002. His book, The Truth about Children and Divorce, was a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award and Library of Virginia Literary Award in 2005.

Dr. Emery is the author of over 100 scientific publications and several books. Marriage, Divorce, and Children’s Adjustment (1999, 2nd Ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications) won the Outstanding Academic Book award from Choice magazine, and was recently translated into Chinese. Abnormal Psychology (2007, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall [with Thomas Oltmanns]) is in its fifth edition (1st Ed 1995; 2nd Ed 1998; 3rd Ed 2001; 4th Ed 2004). Emery has also written Essentials of Abnormal Psychology (2000, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall) with Thomas Oltmanns.  His book, Renegotiating Family Relationships: Divorce, Child Custody, and Mediation (1994, New York: Guilford Publications), was translated into Italian (Il Divorzio: Renegoziare le Relazioni Familiari). Dr. Emery’s new book, The Truth about Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive (New York: Viking/Penguin) was published in August, 2004, and was featured when Dr. Emery presented on the Today Show, The Jane Pauley Show, National Public Radio, in Newsweek magazine, and in many other print and electronic media.

Dr. Emery has lectured extensively on his research across the United States and in numerous countries throughout the world. In addition to his research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities, Dr. Emery continues to engage in a limited practice as a clinical psychologist and divorce mediator. He also is the father of five children.  (bio from

Target Audience:

Emery’s audience is clearly divorcing parents—primarily parents contemplating, entering, or engaged in the divorce process; secondarily divorced parents who are willing to work together for the best interests of their children.

For More Information:


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Recent Posts

When Our Kids Amaze us

Have you had one of those moments when one of your kids amazed you with how grown up they seem, how articulate they are, or how mature they’ve become, as if you missed a few years of their development somehow? And there they are now, standing before you as a wonderful young man or woman. Where did the time go?

Who is this lovely creature?

I had that experience last May when my two oldest boys, JD and Cal, now sixteen and almost fifteen, went to their spring formal dressed in sport coats and ties. I looked at these two handsome young men in wonder. And truly they looked like men, and they carried themselves that way. I shook my head, and I felt so proud of them.


I had that wonder-filled experience again a few weeks ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Lori, suggested she interview my youngest son, Kai, about an experience he and I had with one of my painting customers (I’m bi-vocational). She heard Kai tell the story earlier and thought it would be great for other dads to hear. They had so much fun planning it together, and the idea quickly grew to include several other subjects, all related to The Great Dads Project.

I shot the video, and stood there with my mouth hanging open most of the time. I could hardly believe this was my little twelve-year-old son still in braces. His thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, humor, and his way with words floored me. Seriously, this kid could be an actor. He was so comfortable on camera, and carried himself with such poise, grace, and presence. I’m not kidding. I know, I’m his dad, I’m bound to think he’s great. But seriously, check this out for yourself, and see if you don’t think he’s as great as I do. Enjoy.


If you like this, leave a comment below, and share
a story about a time one of your kids amazed you.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

Large Book with Outline


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