Now before I say more, I am not a counselor. I never have been and, as far as I can see into my future, I never will be. But I was a First Grade and Kindergarten teacher (Prep and Year One teacher if you are Australian :) and I do know a thing or two about little ones. Children are amazing, but they are not miniature adults. And life often throws up difficult, frightening, confusing or even terribly sad events. Children lack adult powers of reasoning, they don't see cause and effect the way we do and if they can't explain or understand something they often blame themselves. They also often struggle to explain what they are feeling or thinking or just embrace the fact that they are feeling anything at all. This is where the secure nook of a parent's arm and a trusted listening ear can make all the difference. Books are wonderful things. Period. But have you thought about using them with the intention of opening up conversation and speaking into difficult life events that your child might be going through?
The circumstance doesn't need to be particularly stressful in the eyes of an adult for it to rock you little dude's world. While you may be over the moon about another baby on the way, your child may have distinctly different feelings. Now if there are any psychologist/counsellors etc who want to weigh in on this issue then by all means, please do. My point is simply that books provide a wonderful and gentle world for exploring feelings and events that may be completely confusing or even traumatic to a young child.
So I thought I'd list a few favourite books that I have read to both my own children and classes I have taught over the years. Beware... oh the wonderful and heartfelt discussions you may invite :)
Expecting a New Baby?
There's a House Inside my Mummy by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban (Australian picture book)
Laugh out loud stuff! If you have ever wondered what a mother's growing belly and the experience of waiting and preparing for a new baby might look like through the eyes of a three year old, then this is the book for you. Your children will love it too.
If I had a Dragon by Tom and Amanda Ellery
Having a new brother can be a difficult adventure. And perhaps a dragon would make a better play mate? So far my boys are enjoying being the 'dragon brothers' and I don't breathe fire too often!
First Day of School?
Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
A must read for tentative children and perhaps the odd tentative parent??? :)
Loss of a Grandparent or Other Relative?
Old Pig by Margaret Wild.
Heartbreakingly gentle tale of the death of grandma pig. A beautiful story celebrating living, yet honoring the sadness of loosing a love one.
School Yard Bullying?
Just You Wait By Megan de Kantzow
A tale of standing firmly on your own two feet. I read this to my son when he was afraid of a particular boy at his school. We used the characters in the book to role play what he could do or say if he felt threatened.
Don't Fit In? Feeling Just a Little Bit Different?
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (Australian picture book featuring fruit bats)
A fruit bat raised as a bird naturally feels a little displaced. This story embraces friendships across the boundary lines of differences. And along the way lovable Stellaluna learns to both accept and challenge her limitations.
Recovery from illness?
How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
A playful tale that might open up discussion about taking medicine, visiting the doctors or just a great story to cheer up your little one when they are unwell.
Feeling Something, but Not Sure What?
How are you peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers.
Funny stuff that could lead to serious conversation surrounding feelings. Identifying the various feelings of the different foods might be a non-threatening way to broach the topic of what might be going on with your child. My son enjoyed talking about why the various foods might be feeling the way they were feeling and what things in his life have made him feel that way. Great discussions :)
Tough Boris by Mem Fox
Yes boys can cry! Even pirates cry... and so do I.
Augustus and His Smile by Cathrine Rayner. One tiger's search for 'happy' and the simple things Augustus finds along the way that make him smile. A beautiful book of hope that might open up discussion on what it means to be happy and look after ourselves.
Of course there are so many other situations that arise in life and the titles I have listed are really just a few books off a much larger bookshelf, if you get what I mean :)
So, What About You?
Any experiences with your little ones and a beloved book to share? Got any other great titles to suggest?