Vol. 13, No. 2 • May 2009

Books on the Nightstand

Book reviews by Becky Burmester

Change, Change, Change! I hate it so much. The anticipation of change is very difficult for me. Back in the day when my husband Joe’s employment necessitated frequent relocations, I actually said on more than one occasion, “I don’t care where or when we move. Just tell me the specifics and I will deal with it.”

Our children—by foster care, adoption, and birth—face a lifetime of change. How they are equipped to deal with change will play a huge role in how much they enjoy life. As my friends and those who read this column know, books are some of my best friends. And there are books about change.

Who Moved My Cheese?
In thinking about how to use books to help adults and children deal with change, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D., seemed like a good place to start. I first read this little gem of a book (a story, really) several years ago when the church where I worshipped and served on staff was preparing church leaders for the idea that our church was going to continue growing by leaps and bounds and the changes that would mean for leaders and worshippers alike. All staff read the book so that we could use the fable as a starting point for our discussions about change.

The book consists of an introduction, the fable, and a concluding section. There are only four characters: two mice named Sniff and Scurry and two “Little people” named Hem and Haw. As I was rereading the book for this article, I was thinking about its potential usefulness to foster families. Before I had finished much of the book, I was thinking about using the story with kids in care. This book can speak to persons of almost any age.

The author, clever as he is, recognized this and published Who Moved My Cheese for Teens and Who Moved My Cheese for Kids. Dr. Spencer’s 12-year-old son was very much involved in the picture book version for kids. The teen version has the same fable as the adult version, but the introduction and concluding sections feature teens discussing change.

The kids’ version includes discussion questions at the end of the book. My two permanent resident children, as well as my two children in temporary residence, willingly served as test subjects. They enjoyed the story and humored me by answering the discussion questions. They readily identified with aspects of Sniff, Scurry, Hem, and Haw. At ages 6, 8, 9, and 10 they recognized both their own attributes and each other’s. They enjoyed figuring out if I was more like one character than another in my responses to change.

Recognizing how others deal with change enables us to present change in more palatable ways and to anticipate resistance/reluctance.

The Present
The Present, also by Spencer Johnson, is written along the same pattern as Who Moved My Cheese. I read this immediately following a Permanency Planning Meeting at social services for children who have been in care for nearly 5 months. As I read the book I realized that the children’s mother is still living in the past and their dad is living in the future. The “present” is missing from the lives of both. Thankfully the children are living in the “present.”

Raising Your Adopted Child
A friend recommended The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Your Adopted Child by Corrie Lynne Player, M.Ed. Subtitled “A complete handbook to welcoming your adopted child into your heart and home,” this book could be a basic resource for persons at the beginning of the adoption process. It could also be a useful initial resource for foster parents beginning to think about adoption.

Because Joe and I have been in the trenches for so long as foster and adoptive parents, much of this book seemed too basic to me. However, when I tried to see things through the eyes of someone new to the whole system, I concluded that the book could be a useful reference tool. But please don’t think this book truly covers “everything.” No one book could possibly provide all the information you could benefit from having at your disposal as you parent someone else’s kids.

Please know that as you attend workshops and read books and articles about parenting you will CHANGE into ever better parents.

What’s on your nightstand? I’d love to hear what you are reading. Contact me at [email protected] or 919/870-9968.

Copyright 2009 Jordan Institute for Families