10 Books to Help Children Understand Uncomfortable Emotions and Support Their Wellbeing

First of all, happy World Book Day! We are still in lockdown here in the U.K. so I hope that despite these strange times, that you and your child find some creative ways to enjoy the day.

Some emotions are more difficult to handle than others. Feelings like anger, frustration, loneliness, worry, sadness, grief, and fear can be uncomfortable for children. Yet it is important for them to be able to accept all their feelings, even the uncomfortable ones. It is an important part of our overall emotional health and an important part of experiencing the more pleasant emotions too.

Books About Anger

Anger and frustration can be difficult emotions for children to understand and manage. Hurtful remarks often come from a place of intense feelings and might be followed by hitting, kicking or acting out in a negative way.

It is natural to feel angry and frustrated at times but helping kids understand their strong emotions – and especially how to cope with these emotions – provides them with life skills that pay off for the rest of their lives.

 The Bad Tempered Ladybird by Eric Carle

This classic children’s book is about a very moody ladybug who picks a fight every hour with increasingly larger animals. Eventually, it meets a whale who slaps the ladybird with its tail, sending it all the back to where it started. The ladybird learns its lesson and realises that life is much more fulfilling when you are in a good mood!

Sweep by Louise Greig

An uplifting story about confronting big emotions. Have you ever been in a bad mood and swept others along with it? I know I have. Ed's bad mood does make a good story – it begins as something small but before long he gets swept up by his mood and blows in a storm around town. Things do change. There is a shift in the wind and the world starts to look brighter for Ed.

When Sophie Gets Angry…. Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

This beautifully designed book tells the story of a little girl named Sophie, who learns that it's okay to be angry. Everybody gets angry there are ways to manage it. Most important, the story reassures children that their families will still love them when it's over. The colours change from vivid reds in the height of her mood to calming blues.

Books About Sadness and Grief

Grief happens in all sorts of situations that involve loss or change, from moving schools to the death of a loved one. Depressed, hurt, unhappy, and disappointment are all subsets of grief. We don’t do grief very well in our culture but we can get better. Hopefully, these books and the conversations you have with your kids will help.

Sad Book by Micheal Rosen

Michael Rosen confronts the layers of grief in the Sad Book, which he wrote after his eighteen-year-old son Eddie suddenly died of meningitis. By unmasking the different shades of sadness he reveals that the heart’s capacity to love is matched with an equal capacity of pain. It reminds us that grief is love with nowhere to go. Yet, we continue to love, and continue to love during our moments of loss.

Waiting for Wolf by Sandra Dieckmann

This is one of the most gorgeous children’s picture books I have read in a long time. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is incredibly sweet and touching. It deals with death, grief and friendship in a lovely way. This little story could make us all feel a little less alone in their grief. You cannot change the past, you can only remember it. In the darkest of times, you have to remember the good times and not focus on what you’ve lost.

If All the World Were by Joseph Coelho

Coelho braves dealing with an important issue which many young children will encounter: the loss of a grandparent. Through the heading of the four seasons, Coelho’s poem shares a young girl’s celebration of the wonders of the world with her grandfather.
When Winter arrives and we are greeted by that sudden loss, the young girl chooses to retain and celebrate those memories by collecting them through her own words and pictures.

Books About Fear

Fear includes the emotions worry and anxiety, two feelings that many kids experience daily. These stories can be touchstones when your kids are feeling fearful or anxious.

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright

A feelgood rhyming book with a positive message about facing up to change, something that young children can sometimes struggle with, especially during these unprecedented times. Sometimes change comes along whether we like it or not . . . but if you let it, change can be a wonderful, life-changing experience. Kevin the Koala discovers this and more in this delightful picture book from the bestselling creators of  The Lion Inside!

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

What are problems for? They challenge us, shape us and help us to discover just how strong, brave and capable we really are. Even though they are uncomfortable, problems have a way of bringing unexpected gifts. From the creators of What Do You Do With an Idea? comes a new book to encourage you to look at problems in a new light and discover the possibilities they can hold.
What do you do with a problem? Especially one that follows you around and doesn't seem to be going away?
This is the story about a persistent problem and the child who isn't so sure how to deal with it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something not expected.

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's poem is a celebration of strength and courage by overcoming fear in everyday life. The mood is uplifting and optimistic while the tone is focused and determined. The illustrations is from artwork by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose childlike style depicts the fanciful imaginings of childhood. In this introduction to poetry and contemporary art, brief biographies of Angelou and Basquiat accompany the text and artwork. 

 Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival

Ruby is a typical little girl, who enjoys life and exploring, but her world begins to change when she finds a worry following her. At first the worry is just a small fuzz ball, but as the story progresses, the worry grows. As the worry expands, Ruby begins to feel incredibly sad and concerned. To return to her former carefree self, Ruby finds a conversation and the friendship of another child the key to removing her worry ball from her life.

Percival’s willingness the tackle a subject that deserves special attention. It is the perfect strategy to open up a discussion of worry and help young children to see that they are not alone in their feelings. Ruby’s Worry covers themes of friendship, communication, problem solving and emotions.

I hope you found these suggestions useful. Please feel free to share your comments, suggestions and ideas below.

Photo: Aniie Spratt

With kindness,

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