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13 Aug, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Children’s books that deal with negative emotions

Childhood is filled with fun and comforting discoveries, from that first delicious taste of chocolate to the reassurance of a parent’s warm embrace. But along the way, children also experience negative emotions that come with other life experiences, such as getting angry at someone they love, feeling left out or being jealous of a sibling. Many times, we downplay or dismiss a child’s intense emotions, forgetting that we have more experience handling life’s ups and downs. But to kids, feeling stressed about a math test or a more serious life event can take on huge proportions and it’s not always easy for parents to know how to offer comfort and solutions.

Enter Free Spirit publishing house and its Laugh and Learn book series for children ages 8 to 12. These books, which have silly titles like Don’t Behave Like You’re in A Cave, address common childhood problems, from getting along with siblings and confronting cliques at school to bigger issues like divorce and death. The information is broken up by tips, sidebars and cartoon illustrations, which makes reading the books easy for even reluctant readers.

Using a friendly, conversational tone, the various authors quickly define a problem and make children realize that they are not alone in what they are feeling and living. The strength of the series lies in its many useful suggestions for coping with problems, whether it is advice on how to deal with bullies or be more organized. There are practical tips and ideas to help young people confront whatever is bothering them, including sensible advice on when to seek out help from parents or even professionals like a doctor or therapist.

While a book can’t replace the day-to-day love and support of adults, it can help a child feel just a little less alone when he or she hits a rough patch. Here are some titles young people might want to explore:

Bullies are a pain in the brain by Trevor Romain Free Spirit PublishingBullies Are A Pain In The Brain
($9.95 Cdn) by Trevor Romain

Many books have been written about bullying, yet there are no easy answers on how to deal with kids who antagonize others. Author Trevor Romain offers a simple guide to the psychology behind bullying, which is basically that bullies love power. He notes that bullies often have a sense of being better than everyone else. His basic advice for anyone being bullied is to speak up and speak out (meaning let adults know). The book also includes a section for parents and teachers to help them support a child who is being bullied and advice on how to put an end to this serious problem.

Siblings your stuck with each other so stick together by James J. Crist and Elizabeth Verdick Free Spirit PublishingSiblings: You’re Stuck With Each Other, So Stick Together
($9.95 Cdn) by James J. Crist, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Verdick

As the authors cheerfully acknowledges, learning to live with brothers and sisters can be a trying task, no matter how much you love them. Young readers will learn how to navigate sibling relationships, from organizing a family meeting where members can air grievances (and offer praise) to trying to see the world from each other’s perspective. Kids are encouraged to look at how their behaviours — such as whining or complaining that a sibling gets more of something (cake, attention, allowance) — affect the relationship. There are also chapters to help kids living with a sibling who has a special need as well as those who are part of a blended family. Readers will enjoy the wacky illustrations and discover new ways to connect with siblings.

How to take the Grrrr out of anger by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis Free Spirit PublishingHow To Take The Grrrr Out of Anger
($9.95 Cdn) by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis

Considering how often people lose their tempers, it’s surprising how little we talk about anger or discuss with our children ways to deal with it (beyond telling them to “stop yelling” and “don’t talk to me like that”). This little book, at just over 100 pages, tackles anger in a straightforward and non-judgmental way, offering five steps that help kids identify their angry feelings, recognize how anger feels in the body and then stop and think before doing anything rash. There are also tips for talking to someone who has made you mad, as well as practical ideas for calming down, like distracting yourself by listening to music, going for a bike ride or doing a hobby. In a matter-of-fact tone, the authors remind readers, young and old, that anger is a perfectly normal emotion that we can all learn to handle in appropriate ways.

Many of these books are available at Kidlink, 5604 Monkland Ave., in N.D.G. as well as online (including in e-book format) at www.freespirit.com/Laugh-and-Learn. Topics include getting homework done with less stress, dealing with procrastination, living through your parents divorce, coping with the death of a loved one, learning better manners and more.

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