Emotions are a hard thing to control when you’re a child. They can often be overwhelming and children’s behaviour may change because of it. It’s not just about recognising what their feeling, there’s always understanding why they feel that way and what they can do to balance themselves again. For those with neurodiversity (for example Autism or ADHD) emotional awareness and emotional regulation can be even more of a challenge. My eldest son (6, nearly 7). I have been on many training workshops, read websites and blogs and have many resources such as sensory aids, ‘I’m ok/Not ok’ prompts and ‘safe spaces’.
However, the resource I have found most helpful for my son is books. I have a collection of story books, fact books and workbooks that we use on a daily basis to develop emotional regulation and understanding. So today I thought I’d share them with you.
- Today I’m Strong by Nadiya Hussain & Ella Bailey
This story is based around school and dealing with bullying. However, it is not just applicable to bullying scenerios. It can be helpful for children who have challenging relationships with others or don’t know how to deal with conflicts. It’s quite a basic story line with repeated phrases. But this level of vocabulary actually makes the message clearer and children can take it on board easier.
2. How Hattie Hated Kindness by Margot Sunderland.
Dr Margot Sunderland has written many books based on children’s mental health. She is a child psychologist and psychotherapist with over 30 years working with families. This story is about an angry young girl called Hattie who pushes away anyone that comes near her. She doesn’t want people to give her blankets or to invite her with them places. She is mean to them. Soon Hattie starts to realise that she doesn’t like feeling this way and she works to being happy and wanting to join in things. The story is very subliminal. I found my self asking my son if he ever had those thoughts, if that’s what it felt like for him when he was angry about things. It was a good talking point without seeming like I was lecturing him (for my son, he pushes people away when something has upset him. He’ll shout at anyone who tries to say something kind. This is just reactionary, something this books shows). You could also just do a running commentary about Hattie if you know that your child will deal better with associating the feelings and behaviour with a character than talking about themselves. It’s quite a long story so definitely one for over 5’s.
3. Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival
This is a well written and relatable book. It follows Ruby as she discovers a worry and then watches it grow and grow until it’s a ‘big worry’. It’s sentences are quite simple which makes it easier to take in. It gives a persona or physical being to the emotion of ‘worry’. By seeing it as a ‘thing’ and watching it grow and then shrink as the children find ways to deal with their worries, I believe it gave reassurance to my son. It shows how talking about a worry is the best thing to do. I would say this is aimed at under 7’s but no reason you couldn’t talk through with with older children too.
4. Feelings Flips: What Should I do? from Junior Learning
This is a sturdy flip chart style book. With a visual alongside the word, the tabs make it quick and easy to find the page for the associated feeling. Once you get to the page it gives simple examples of what the child can do to help them navigate through that emotion. It’s in basic language and short sentences, again alongside a visual which makes this perfect for ‘in the moment’ support. There’s 14 emotions from ‘excited’ to ‘angry’ and including more physical feelings to such as hungry and unwell. This is useful as it’s not just angry or sad which can be hard to deal with. Sometimes being excited can show as overly hyperactive or unwell can come out as anger. By having a range of feelings it covers most situations.
5. All About Feelings by Felicity Brooks and Frankie Allen (Usborne)
This is a typical Usborne book in terms of style and the manor it approaches subjects. It’s very honest and factual but I’m a child friendly, almost ‘story telling’ way. It’s a long book (31 pages) so we have ‘go to’ pages that we jump to based on what’s been happening in our lives. It’s also a good one to read in preparation for something new or different where you anticipate that emotions may play a part in behaviour.
6. Don’t Worry Be Happy: A Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Poppy O’Neill
This is definitely for children 7+ and will need to be done with an adult. Pre-teens/teenagers may be able to have more autonomy. There’s a fair amount of text and the pages for activities aren’t that big. However the activities themselves are great for both ‘in the moment’ and for retrospective time. There’s also advice and tips on things to try when feeling anxious. My main bug bearer with this book is the title. Telling someone with anxiety ‘don’t worry be happy’ can be quite patronising and downplay how they feel. But if you take move past that the book itself is a useful resource.
7. Autism and Me by Haia Ironside
This is quite a basic level book and although it touches on autism and what it means, it’s not overwhelming. It’s more an ‘all about me’ style book. As with the above, it’s definitely one to do with an adult so there can be discussion and questions. The great thing about this book is they can do as little or as much on each page as they want. It even says on the first pages that you can stamp on it if you feel like it. So no pressure to conform.
Buying books can become expensive so I recommend taking a look on resale sites, Facebook marketplace, Amazon (they often have new and used), Olio, car boots as well as local bookshops. It’s amazing what books you can find.