We are in unprecedented times.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard that statement over the past two months. But it's true. We are in a different world right now. We are facing something that no one alive has had to face. A pandemic that has no bias towards certain groups of people.
And we are all scared.
As a parent, I am having a hard time. I know my kids are struggling with the changes in their routines. Before all of this, they were seeing their friends almost daily, playing at the park all the time, driving me crazy in the double carts at Target every weekend. And they saw their grandparents in person almost every week, if not every other week. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was busy. But they enjoyed it, even after their tantrums.
But since we were given the Shelter in Place order, I have seen my kids struggle more than they have in a long time. The last time it got this bad was when we relocated our family. But this time, they are bigger, more verbal, which means these meltdowns are EPIC.
So, I got books. Quite a few books. Hoping I would find one or two that could help my kids during this challenging time.
But guess what? I found FIVE! Yes, five books that have been absolutely wonderful at turning the epic meltdowns into minor emotional outbursts. And I am going to share them with you.
Book #1: The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
The Invisible String is by far my favorite!! This book was actually recommended to me by my son's school counselor when we were dealing with some separation anxiety issues. And it was a miracle worker even more now than it was then!
This book is about how we all have this "invisible string" that is made out of love that connects us to the ones we love. And when we tug on the string, it tells the ones we love that we are thinking about them. It is a sweet way to highlight the connection between people.
And right now, we are in a time when we see those that we love so much less than ever before. For my son, we talked about how it connects him with his friends from school. He misses them so much right now, it hurts my heart. But when we read this book, he "tugs" on those strings to let his friends know he loves them and misses them.
And we even talk about it with my parents. My son loves tugging on the string for Grammy and Poppa. And we tug on it every time he tells me he wishes he could go to their house.
This story is fantastic for grief and loss. And right now, I see children and teens struggling with grief they do not understand, and we often don't as adults either.
So when your kiddo is missing their friends, missing the family they can't see right now, read this book with them and remind them of how we are always connected to the ones we love. Heck, read it for yourself and tug on the string whenever you miss someone you care about!
Book #2: Visiting Feelings
In Visiting Feelings, we get to see emotions in a new way for children. And personally, I LOVE it!
My favorite part about this book is the fact that they don't label anything about feelings. Like I have a hard time when sadness is labeled as a blue feeling, and the color shown is like a light and happy shade of blue. Ugh! Seriously, this irks me because my sadness is not a light and happy color, for me it is dark and brooding and mottled with black and gray. My sister's sadness is the color of a starry night sky, like a dark deep blue sprinkled with glitter.
This book is curious about emotions. It asks kids questions about their feelings to consider them in a different, more helpful light. The questions are open-ended and encourage the reader to consider the way their emotion looks, feels, sounds, etc. Giving an emotion an image in the mind allows a child to feel more comfortable talking about the emotion, like they have more control over it.
This book encourages readers to practice emotional mindfulness. Instead of trying to control emotions, we need to be able to look at them with no judgment. This allows for us to move past emotionally reactive behaviors and into more thoughtful and helpful responses.
Dr. Dan Siegel talks about the idea of "mindsight", where we use the mindfulness we have practiced to gain more understanding and empathy for others. Whats beautiful in this book is that at the end of the lovely story, there is a short "Note to Parents", discussing ways that you as a caregiver can support the reader in growing with mindfulness.
So when your kiddo is crying or screaming, and can't figure out why, read this book with them and try visiting their feelings together.
Book #3: Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused
I don't know about you, but mindfulness is not something that comes naturally to me. I have had to learn it over and over again.
In Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere, I actually have fun teaching my kids about mindfulness practices, and I am learning a lot myself! It is not a story book, in the sense that you don't read the whole thing all at once. It is more of a "mindfulness manual".
Each page has a mindfulness exercise for the reader to practice. You can do one or more at a time (but I suggest only one and practice it several times). From deep, controlled breathing to sending good thoughts, young people can learn how to gain control of their bodies and thoughts in order to control their responses to difficult emotions.
Each of the practices in this book are sweet and simple to understand. There are five categories: Be Calm, Focus, Imagine, Make Some Energy, and Relax. And all of them are fun!
So grab your little one and learn some ways to be mindful!
Book #4: The Hugging Tree: A Story About Resilience
Have you heard that proverbial saying about fishing and teaching? "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Resilience is the thing we want to teach our children.
In The Hugging Tree: A Story About Resilience, there is a little tree who is struggling to survive where she landed as a seed. Then a little boy comes and helps the strengthen the roots of the tree, gives love to the tree, and then the tree grows into this beautiful little sanctuary for others. My description does not do the story justice AT ALL.
But what I love most about this story is the way community is brought into the picture. Right now, we are social distancing, self-isolating, and avoiding activities that involve physical interaction with community. And yet, it is in community, through relationships with others, that we are able to heal and grow. And this story shows that.
The tree is not moved, nor is her environment forced to adapt to her needs, so her circumstances do not change. Instead, a kind and caring soul, someone trustworthy, comes into the picture and provides the tree with the love and care she needs to thrive.
But she has to expose her need for help to get it. Just like we need to let others know when we are hurt and struggling. Think of Inside Out, the Pixar movie about emotions. Ryley doesn't get the understanding and empathy she needs from her parents until she tells them how she is feeling.
So when you kiddo is having a hard time asking for help, read this book and help them understand how asking for help, showing where we are struggling, connects us with people who can help us. It's beautiful.
Book #5: I Can Handle It
I Can Handle It (Mindful Mantras)! I find myself having to say this mantra when I am trying to get things done, but I feel too overwhelmed. So it's no surprise that a book about how "I Can Handle It" would be helpful for kiddos during these stressful times.
One of my favorite parts about this book is the way the main character, Sebastian, considers different responses to his problems. Some of the choices are helpful, some are just downright silly. One of my favorites is when little Sebastian feels ashamed because he did something wrong. He gives two helpful options, but then one is silly, where he says "I can go to my room and stay there until I am 80!" I laughed so hard!
The point is, not all of the things we think of are good. Some are silly, and sometimes they make things worse. But, they are still an option. And this book allows kids to realize that some options are more helpful than others.
So when your kid is overwhelmed or discouraged because of the schoolwork they have to do at home, read this book and help your child see, "I can handle it!"
The point is, spend time talking with your kiddo about the struggles our world is facing. The struggles you are facing. And if you don't know where to start, grab a book and read it together! Then TALK about it together! You will be amazed at how insightful and beautiful those little souls can be.
Take care, friends!
Disclosure: I do receive a small payment for affiliate links in this article.