Hannah Pitts is a social worker and registered play therapist with years of experience. She specializes in working with children and families. One of her favorite things about working with kids is empowering parents to be involved in their child’s growth. Her secret to empowering parents despite demanding schedules and the fact that no one can be an expert on everything? Children’s books. These bite-sized nuggets of information can provide connection and knowledge while complimenting the work happening in play therapy.
Why children’s books!?
- Books give parents the confidence to tackle complex issues. Divorce? Death? Anxiety? The right books will provide age-appropriate language and explanations to support children through tough transitions. Even if a child dislikes reading, books can give parents the words and tools they seek.
- Books provide a shared language. It is helpful for children when the adults supporting them use the same language about difficult topics. This prevents misunderstandings and allows children to process fluidly.
- Books teach resources and coping skills in a way that allows parents and children to be on the same team. Learning skills from an outside source (book, therapist, etc,) allows parents to come alongside their kid as a helper and model. This creates a shared, interactive experience, strengthens the parent-child bond, and can help decrease power struggles.
- Books provide visuals to help kids learn and integrate information. Pictures can be a powerful processing tool and help them engage in uncomfortable topics.
Hannah recommends the following books for different feelings and transition periods:
For New Siblings: Big Brothers are the Best and Big Sisters are the Best by Fran Manushkin
These books are designed to help young children learn to help care for and adjust to life with a new baby. They are recommended for ages 2-5. You can find the books here.
For Divorce: Dinosaur’s Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurene Kransy Brown and Marc Brown
Summary from Lori Hellis’ book review: Its straightforward, simple language, accompanied by engaging illustrations, explains many of the facts surrounding divorce. Dinosaurs Divorce explains divorce from start to finish in just 32 illustrated pages. It’s a book to read with your children and to refer to when your children have questions about the changes to your family. The glossary at the beginning explains what common terms mean, and the section on feelings, titled “What About You?” will be particularly helpful. The chapter discusses the many feelings children have surrounding their parent’s divorce. Thoughtful parents will use the “sad, angry, ashamed, guilty, afraid, confused, relieved and worried” illustrations as jumping-off points to spark deeper discussions about what your child is feeling, and how to help the child identify and understand what they are feeling.
For Anxiety: Hey Warrior by Karen Young
Summary from heysigmond.com: A book for kids about anxiety. Kids can do amazing things with the right information. Understanding why anxiety feels the way it does and where the physical symptoms come from is a powerful step in turning anxiety around. Anxiety explained, kids empowered.
For Separation Anxiety: The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
Summary from Patrice Karst’s website: Parents, educators, therapists, and social workers alike have declared The Invisible String the perfect tool for coping with all kinds of separation anxiety, loss, and grief. In this relatable and reassuring contemporary classic, a mother tells her two children that they’re all connected by an invisible string.
You can also find a kid’s activity kit there on her site for worksheets and other resources.
For Anger: Soda Pop Head by Julia Cook
Summary from The Reading Tub: Life isn’t fair … and whenever something unfair happens, Lester pops his top. He explodes so often that the kids in his class have a song and a name: Soda Pop Head. In just one day, he’s been to the principal’s office, sent to his room for grabbing his sister, and yelled at his teacher for losing his homework. Luckily Dad has a plan to help.
For Grief: When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief by Marge Eaton Heegaard
This is a nondenominational, interactive book and guide for children to learn to cope with grief after loss. This book is designed to let the child illustrate the book with pictures of the person they lost, what they might look like when they are older, feelings they might be feeling, what they might need for comfort, and questions they have about death. It is designed to help normalize change, death, and the feelings that come with those things.
Here is a link to a reading that guides children through the book and allows them to draw and write about their experiences with loss.