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8 Books for talking to children about emotions

It takes time for children to learn to recognise and manage their feelings. Talking to children about emotions can help this process. Talking is usually best done when everyone is calm and no-one is overly emotional. Reading a book together can help young children to reflect on feelings (their own and other people’s) and can prompt conversations about how emotions are expressed.

Here are my favourite books for talking to children about emotions – I hope you find them useful.

The Big Angry Roar (by Jonny Lambert)

I really like The Big Angry Roar because it is great for starting a conversation about emotions but one that could go in lots of different directions. You could end up playing lions on the floor, or talking about the lion inside everyone, or deciding what you would do if you were the lion in the story. A great conversation starter with lovely illustrations (for 3-6yrs).

When Sadness Comes to Call (by Eva Eland)

I love When Sadness Comes to Call– for its message to parents as much as to children. As parents, when our children are feeling sad, our temptation is to jump in and try and fix things. when what we really need to do is to listen empathetically, acknowledge their sadness, normalise it and help our child to find a way through it. This book will not only send the reassuring message to your child that’s it’s ok to be sad, it will help you learn to do that too. (4yrs+)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (by Judith Viorst)

Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is a real classic – 40 years old but still a thoughtful and charming read. It tells a simple story about a day in which everything goes wrong – but the real focus is on how Alexander feels and the choices he has about how to respond to the rubbish things that happen that day. Perfect for starting “How do you feel when….” conversations with 3- to 8-year-olds.

When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry (by Molly Bang)

The illustrations in When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry are beautiful. But the real point of reading it is to talk about how anger feels, what it makes you want to do and what you can do instead. The book communicates its messages on lots of different levels. The colours map Sophie’s feelings – when she is full of rage the pictures are dominated by reds which then fade to yellows as she calms down. Sophie manages to calm down by running off and going for a long walk – this might not be an option that you would recommend but it can be used to start a discussion about what might work to help your particular child feel calmer. (4- to 8-year-olds)

How are you feeling today? (by Molly Potter)

What I like about How are you feeling today? is that it doesn’t just focus on negative emotions. Children can find positive emotions (like excitement) equally overwhelming and this book includes a great selection of feelings and focusses on practical coping strategies that children can use for dealing with that emotion. So it’s great not just for talking to children about emotions in general but for identifying their specific emotions that day and coming up with a plan for dealing with them. (Age 4+)

Feelings (by Libby Walden)

Feelings: Inside my heart and in my head is aimed at children aged 4yrs+ but personally I think it best suits children in the 5/6yr bracket who can sometimes struggle with self-regulation in those first years at school. The illustrations are truly beautiful and open up the potential for some really quite sophisticated conversations about feelings and how they colour our world and shape how we act.

The Way I Feel (by Janan Cain)

The Way I Feel uses poems to articulate a selection of common emotions and presents them as very simply part of being human. There is no focus on behaviour, just on how emotions feel, so it is the perfect springboard for talking to children about emotions in general and helping them to recognise those feelings in themselves. The illustrations are simple and effective and the poems are good enough just to enjoy for their own sake. (Age 3+)

Hands are not for hitting (by Martine Agassi)

The focus of Hands are not for Hitting is on helping children refrain from expressing anger and frustration in violent or aggressive ways. The book goes through a long list of all the wonderful things that hands can be used for and there are notes and suggestions for adults on how to apply the learning from the book. Some parents report success with this book from as young as two years old!

These are my favourites – if you have any books for talking to children about emotions that you would like to recommend, please do comment below. You might also like these Books for teaching children social skills or Books for helping children manage friendship problems. Or why not watch this free video tutorial for ideas for self soothe strategies to help your child calm themselves down?

This is not a sponsored post, I wrote it in response to the questions I am frequently asked during my parenting clinics. However, it does contain affiliate links (which means that if you click through from this post and buy one of these books, I will get a small fee). For more info, see my Disclosure Notice.

Books for talking to children about emotions: picture of 'The Way I Feel' front cover

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