"I Love You Penelope Rose" is a book that therapist and child specialist Tammy Daniele felt needed to be written.
Penelope Rose, the little girl in the book with bouncy red curls, is saddened when her parents tell her they are getting a divorce. She slams the door to her room and cries until she has no more tears to shed.
But both parents assure her that they still love her, that the divorce is not her fault, and that she will continue to see both of them. She soon learns she can be happy living between two homes.
It's a message children and parents in divorcing families need to hear, said Daniele, who herself grew up with divorced parents and often counsels children and parents going through divorce.
The Aurora resident said she is using the book in her practice at Daniele & Associates in Naperville.
"There are a lot of good books for kids, but a lot of them were written a long time ago," she said. "I also wrote it with the intent that it be a guide to parents of how things could be done in terms of supporting each other as co-parents."
A licensed therapist with specialized training in divorce mediation, child therapy and sexual addiction, Daniele said her own background as a child of divorced parents prepared her for the field in which she has worked for 17 years.
"I just really understood the work," she said. "I always knew that I really wanted to help kids through it, and also to help parents find a way to make it better for them."
Daniele said research and her own experience as a therapist show that children in divorced families do best if the parents are able to cooperate with each other.
"Kids don't like feeling in the middle," she said. "They want to be able to love both their parents unconditionally."
Children of divorced parents face different issues depending on their age, Daniele said. Small children who lack a concept of time may have difficulty understanding when they'll see the other parent. Adolescents may wonder if someday they will end up divorced or decide it would be better not to be married.
Parents need to be able to separate their own relationship issues from their role as parents, Daniele said.
"They're ending the marital relationship. They're not ending their relationship with their kids," she said.
To help parents get past their own anger and hurt, she recommends they find support and people to listen, whether its through a support group, counselor, therapist or friends.
Clients often come to her by word-of-month or are referred by an attorney or the court. Daniele may provide individual or couples counseling, divorce coaching and/or help a divorcing couple draw up a co-parenting agreement.
Terra Howard, a court-appointed attorney to represent the best interest of children, said she has referred a number of young boys and girls to Daniele, who then follows up with the parents on what they can do to support the child. In one case, a little boy who refused to talk opened up after two or three sessions with Daniele, she said.
"I refer as many people as I can because I truly believe she is excellent in what she does," Howard said. "Kids really like her. She just clicks with them."
Howard said she also had given Daniele's book to one little girl whose parents were divorcing.
"As she read the book, I saw the expression on her face change," Howard said. "She helps children recognize that they are not alone."
Today, more American children live with divorced parents than with intact families, Daniele said. The reasons for divorce are many -- from marrying too young and not really knowing the other person to changes in one or both partners and infidelity.
"Sometimes people don't recognize that marriage is work. Even good marriages need consistent effort," said Daniele, herself the married mother of two small children.
How long a couple or family remain in counseling depends on what their issues are, Daniele said. Counseling often is covered by insurance plans, and mediation typically costs between $175 and $275 an hour. Daniele said for families in financial straits, other resources are available, such as Rainbows for children and teens grieving death, divorce or other painful, family transitions; support groups offered by churches and community groups; and seminars that a number of organizations provide.
Asked whether it is ever valid for parents to stay together for the sake of the kids, Daniele said it depends on the family and their resources.
"It's a Catch-22," she said. "I think it's really about doing what's best not only for the children, but for the parents and family as a whole."
Geared toward younger children, the 20-page book sells for $8.99 in paperback and buyers can download an audio version at no extra cost. "I Love You Penelope Rose" is available at www.tatepublishing.com and Amazon.com.