Children can express, or repress, a range of emotions when they are facing new experiences. Using books in your practice is a great way to help children deal with their fears or emotions from a safe distance. Following are a few books I love to use to help validate feelings and start conversations.
WHY DO YOU CRY?:
How many times have you heard a caregiver or staff member tell a child "don't cry" when they are having something painful or frightening done to them? It is important to validate to children that it's perfectly ok to cry and this book does just that. It shows children that it's ok to cry at any age and for any reason, from being stung by a bee to hating your new haircut!
WHEN SOPHIE GETS ANGRY-REALLY, REALY ANGRY:
Anger is an emotion that can be very frightening for children, especially if they don't know how to control it. This story follows Sophie as she gets really angry and wants to "smash the world to smithereens" and then as she begins to calm down. This is a good way to start a conversation about what makes the child angry and how they feel inside. Using crayons or markers and asking the child to draw out the colors of their anger and then the colors when they feel better is a great art activity to pair with this book.
GLAD MONSTER, SAD MONSTER:
This book also uses colors to portray a variety of emotions. For instance, the blue monster says that waving goodbye and losing his balloon makes him sad and there are corresponding colored monster masks to illustrate each emotion. Ideally the mask is to be worn by those reading the book but because we wouldn't want to share masks in the clinical setting, after reading the book I have used basic paper plates, stick on eyes, etc. to have the child make their own mask to show how they are feeling that day.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY:
You gotta love Alexander. Bad days are the pits and this book shows us that everyone has bad days and can help validate the child's feelings. Especially helpful for children in the hospital, this is a great way to open up conversation about what aspects of the child's day are the hardest. Used in group settings, this can help children understand they are not alone in having bad days and also be used to facilitate discussion about how each child copes and what makes them feel better.