Using Books to Support Your Child’s Emotions

Have you ever been in a scenario with your child where you knew something was bothering him or her but you couldn’t quite put it into age-appropriate words? I’ve been there many times. Recently, my older son, previously a good sleeper who fell asleep on his own easily, has been begging me to sit in his room for “just a little while longer…PLEASE!!!” Of course, within reason, I’m happy to oblige, but it’s something I’d really like to help him work through to preserve both his sanity and my own. I decided to look to the bookshelf, the kids’ shelf this time, not my parenting bookshelf, and seek answers there instead.

Sometimes children’s books can do more than simply tell a good story. Some really exceptional books can actually help kids process big feelings that they may otherwise have a hard time putting into a context they can understand. Below are a few of what I like to call “problem-solver books” for young children that tackle many common childhood issues. Feel free to add your own to the list, too!

Fear of sleeping alone:

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

A little llama screams for his mamma at bedtime while she attempts to do a few chores around the house. I especially like this because the mamma llama gets a little frustrated for a moment- something my son has seen in this very scenario from time to time. Very catchy, with awesome rhyme.

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Being different from peers:

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum is a sweet little mouse with a VERY long name. The other mice in kindergarten make fun of her and bring her to tears when they mock her for having such a long moniker. Ultimately, she sees the beauty in her special namesake.

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Getting a new sibling:

Babies Don’t Eat Pizza by Dianne Danzig

This is a great book for kids who are maybe ages four and older and about to become a big brother or sister. It answers many of the questions kids this age have about babies and pregnancy in a very age-appropriate way. The author is an R.N. who has led sibling prep classes and really “gets” what preschool and early elementary kids want to know about and what they need reassurance about when it comes to their new role as an older sibling. In my opinion, this book is too difficult for kids under 3 and a half or 4 years old to really grasp, but for the older ones, it’s spot-on.

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Low self-esteem in school:

No Good In Art by Miriam Cohen

One of my all-time favorite children’s books for its story line and its great illustrations, this book tells the tale of a little boy who was discouraged by his teacher the previous year and has a hard time feeling like he can paint anything during art class. This book is the reason I went into the field of education, and does a great job of discussing the anxiety some children feel about their work being on display.

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Differences in families:

The Family Book by Todd Parr

When kids start asking questions about family structures, i.e., “Can a family have just a mom? Can a family have just grandparents and kids? Can a family have two dads?” it’s time to break out The Family Book. In simple terms and with simple illustrations for even the youngest audience, this book shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all family!

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(and another great family difference book…)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

This story is not only a great example of a family taking on a non-traditional format, but it’s a true story about chinstrap penguins in the New York Central Park Zoo! Two male penguins, who were always together, tried to hatch an egg-shaped rock. The zookeepers noticed this and gave them an actual egg to hatch, and they raised the little penguin chick as their own offspring…an adorable story that also drives home the message that love is what really makes a family.

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