Encouraging kindness and other positive behaviors (Book Review)

f there’s one thing that I’m learning over and over as a parent is that you’re not going to get everything right or with the outcome you want all the time. That would just be too easy! When this happens in my life, it often leads to putting too much pressure on myself, guilt and negative thoughts about myself as a mother.

One thing I try to be mindful of is

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Help kids cope when feeling angry (book review)

Raise your hand if you will do anything to eliminate or shorten some of the meltdowns that come along with that cute, tank full of emotions, child of yours (arm up over here). Parenthood is tough for anyone and everyone and takes every ounce of patience you thought you had and then some.

When my daughter’s pediatrician entered the room at her 3-year-old well checkup, she raised her eyebrows and asked how we were doing with an understanding smile and nod. She knows I’m a child life specialist and I jokingly (but not really) said how I really didn’t realize the meltdowns and challenging behaviors were so precisely timed to start the day before she turned 3. I mean seriously, I knew they were coming, but I still wanted to pretend it wasn’t!   

In these days when meltdowns come more frequently than solo bathroom breaks, I have so much gratitude for the writers and illustrators who teach children healthy habits and strategies. Books are the one tool that never seems to fail to help children recognize, validate, and give healthy ways to cope with emotions is through books. Since children often need more than one time to learn and implement these little (okay big) lessons, books are a saving grace for this tired Mama!

Help kids cope when feeling angry #copingtools #preschoolbooks #booksforpreschoolers #managingemotions #emotionalregulation #coping #angery #angry #mad #booksforyoungkids #booksforkids #doseofplay

I probably don’t need to be another voice telling parents how important it is to read to children from the get-go. We know it helps them understand the world around them, learn how to communicate, bond with caregivers, identify routines, and so much more. Reading to my children has truly been one of the most special experiences for me as a mother. Not only does it give me all of the feels to see them immersed in story, I feel so proud when I see them take away information they’ve learned to help themselves master a skill, understand emotions and identify ways to cope with stressful situations (just to name a few reasons).

Children’s books have been a guiding light to help me remember to step outside of my own agenda and remember on tough days that young children are full of big emotions whose brains are rapidly growing. When I focus on the normalcy and the reason why for their behavior, I find it easier for myself to remain calm and help them figure out how to calm and/or problem solve.

I typically will introduce new developmentally appropriate books to my three-year-old when she is calm and, in a place, she will listen. Then after it has been introduced, it is offered as a choice to help her calm down if it is available. Books have been a huge influence in helping her find ways to help herself calm. Often, she needs prompts or reminders, but she has also shown how capable she is to implement the strategies we or the ones from her books teach her. As an example, she has learned to stop, slow down and then try again when she is escalating due to frustration (disclaimer = less likely on no nap days). It feels incredible when I hear her from another room getting frustrated and it turns into her excitedly saying, “I did it! I tried again! It worked.”

“How do dinosaurs say I’m Mad?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, is witty while teaching a great lesson about how to cope with anger. I love reading it with really dramatic facial expressions and watching my daughter playfully mimic me. Each page gives examples of what the dinosaur doesn’t do when mad (e.g. scream and shout, throw books, etc.) Then, as pictured below, it shares a healthy way to respond when feeling mad.

When the kids were napping one day, I had some fun taking photos. Squish/stress balls are one of my favorite tangible coping tools to give to kids and teens. I thought I would give this dino his very own squish ball, simply made with a bit of air in a water balloon. When I showed it to my girl, she had the sweetest amused reaction. It was surprise mixed with joy and excitement to play. Any bit of guilt or shame I had for using spare time for the pictures all made it seem WORTH IT.

What are your favorite books to teach young children about emotions and how to cope? Subscribe to the newsletter, so you don't miss the ones I will be sharing next!


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Bullying: Everyone Counts in this Colorful Book

Books for Young Children #bullying #booksaboutbullying #teachkindness #inclusiveness #childlifespecialist #teacher #preschool #preschooler #booksforkids #booksforpreschoolers #teachthemyoung #standupforothers #earlyeducation

Child life specialists help children cope with life stressors, primarily injury and illness in the medical setting, but we are often in a position to help with related stressors outside of the hospital walls. Our rapport made with a family often lends itself to learning about stressors for a child and family within the walls of the school and home. If and when it is out of the scope of our services, we happily make the appropriate referral and sometimes partner with that discipline to help the family feel heard, supported and geared with some resources upon leaving the hospital. In these situations and as a mother of two, I've discovered the value children's books offer that explore and process challenges children face, such as emotional regulation, caregiver separation anxiety, or bullying. 

I'm in the process of compiling a comprehensive go to book resource list for children and families. In the process of looking for books that help reinforce emotional regulation strategies to my preschooler, I found a number of books that I am excited to share with parents and health care professionals working with young children.

Written by Kathryn Otoshi, "One" colorfully labels feelings and helps reinforce identifying numbers. It sends an important message about being kind, inclusive and standing up for someone if they are being bullied. For that reason, it's not only educational for preschoolers, but school-aged children as well. It's not a new book, published nearly 10 years ago, but one that still holds a valuable lesson for young children today. 

By Kathryn Otoshi

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Explaining Brain Death and Organ Donation to Children

As a child life specialist, I am always learning new things and developing creative and appropriate ways to educate about procedures, diagnoses, medical equipment, medical terminology- the list goes on and on. I know what it means to jump from patient to patient and to learn as I teach, and I’ve developed an ability to appropriately adapt my intervention to best meet the needs at hand. That being said, I will never forget the day I was first asked to explain brain death and organ donation to school-aged children.

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