When your young child is upset, her feelings can be overwhelming. The inner turmoil she’s feeling can be scary and disorienting. Emotions are confusing. They are abstract—you can’t hold them or see them—but also they cause physical changes in the body. They can seem mysterious, manipulative and powerful. When your child is upset, taking steps to move away from emotion and connect with the concrete world around her can give her brain time to process those feelings.

Picture books provide a useful way to get your child to think about her feelings and to learn ways to handle them. Sharing books with your child as part of your routine can build communication skills and a sense of security that will help your child navigate upsets better.

Look for books, such as Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids by Maud Roegiers, that provide suggestions about what to do when “everything is topsy-turvy with my head spinning and my feet up in the air.” Such suggestions include seeking out friends, favorite activities, or a hug. When feeling strong emotions, slowing down to think and process can be difficult to do even for adults. Sharing books with your child and talking about them, when your child is calm, can help her see that she can soothe herself when she’s feeling upset. Talk about what things your child likes to do, like drawing or math, that would be calming. Ask about ways she can take time to think about or feel things and people she can seek out for support. Then, when she is upset, gently remind her about and help her practice the strategies you’ve talked about.

Other books, such as Silence by Lemniscates, focus on other soothing skills such as listening. By being silent and listening carefully, your child can feel more grounded. Listening can also make her aware of aspects of her world she hasn’t noticed before. Focusing the senses–hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell–can help her step back from emotions and reconnect with her physical body and surroundings. To help your child focus on listening, when you read these books together, talk about the different things the child in the story listens to. Then, take some time and listen carefully, together, during familiar activities or in familiar surroundings. You and your child may be surprised by what you hear.

Helping your child feel grounded, and teaching her ways to ground herself when upset, can empower her to manage strong emotions. Picture books can help you do that by providing examples, strategies and opportunities to talk.

Related Books from Magination Press

  • Silence Book Cover


    by Lemniscates

    What can you hear when you are completely silent? Is that the wind blowing? Birds chirping? Sun shining? World whirling? Maybe a car engine or faraway plane? Maybe kids laughing or playing tag? Be still. Listen. Focus on the now. What do you hear? By paying attention to what is otherwise lost in our noisy world, you can develop your imagination and curiosity and learn a lot more about yourself.

  • Take The Time: Mindfulness for Kids Book Cover

    Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids

    by Maud Roegiers

    With gentle rhythms and soothing imagery, Take the Time guides kids toward self-awareness and mindfulness. And when any old day feels topsy-turvy, mindfulness tools may help your child calm down and feel better.