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7 Books That Help Children Deal with Intense Emotions

News flash: Tantrums are all the rage for four-year-olds.

I hear you out there “Tantrums are for toddlers!” But no, four is the new two. Or as Felix would put it, no, No, No, NO, NO!

Felix becomes frustrated because he wants to put his sandals on, but can’t do so without help. Next thing you know, the sandal is flying across the room and our trip to the grocery store is off. “I’ll never put my shoes on again,” he’ll whine, in full diva mode. Later, he has a tantrum because he’d like to help cook dinner, but I can’t find any age-appropriate tasks for him to do. Having to submit to getting washed in the tub instead of cleaning himself off in the shower? Tantrum. There’s a method to this madness. Whenever Felix wants to be a “big boy” and do grownup stuff but is unable or un-allowed, he melts down.

Hey, I feel his pain. When I want something and am unable to obtain it, I feel frustrated. And I also get angry when I’m told no. It stinks not being all-powerful and infallible. One day, Felix will internalize these emotions instead of acting them out in horrible, awful ways. A toddler rolling and kicking on the floor is one thing. A four year old doing the same? On an almost daily basis he comes close to sending himself to the hospital and/or breaking the house.

We’ve found a few books helpful in talking with Felix about these emotions sometimes. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to talk about his interior life. “Do you ever feel mad like this?” I’ll say, as we read a book about anger.

“No, never.”

“That’s not true. You get angry sometimes.”

No, I don’t.”

“It sounds like you’re getting angry right now.”

“NO, I’M NOT!”

Oy. Sometimes there’s no getting through to a little kid, no matter what you do. But these books are a good place to start. Do you have others to suggest? Leave them in the comments section!

  • Feelings Can Be Intense! 1 of 8
    unhappy

    But don't throw a tantrum, I'm here to help! Read on to find out some books that might get your child talking and thinking more about his or her emotions.

  • Finn Throws a Fit by David Elliott 2 of 8
    Finn

    Little Finn freaks out because he doesn't want a peach (makes sense, right?) and as he does, the weather in his home changes. He not only screams and yells, he brings a hurricane through the house. This is an apt way to describe a tantrum, because it not only affects the child, it affects the parents too. Mom and Dad are innocent bystanders, dealing with an emotional storm that's beyond their control. Ok, so often it feels less like I'm "dealing with" Felix's meltdowns, and more like I'm just trying to survive without losing my patience! Afterward, I need more time to recover then he does.

    Click here to purchase Finn Has a Fit for $6.29.

  • When Sophie Gets Really Really Angry by Molly Bang 3 of 8
    Sophie

    Another favorite, because Sophie gets so mad over a really small thing — it's her sister's turn to play with the toy gorilla, and PABAM! Sophie goes nuts. But she has a coping mechanism. She goes outside and climbs her favorite tree. By the time she's at the top, she's cooled down and feeling better. (Bang illustrates this beautifully. Sophie has an aura around her, which flashes red when she's angry and a pleasant yellow when she's calm.) Taking a break is great advice for dealing with irrational anger.

    Click here to purchase When Sophie Gets Really Really Angry for $5.71.

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 4 of 8
    giving tree

    Silverstein's classic addresses the relationship between parent and child, with the tree standing in as the parent, willing to give everything to the little boy. As the boy grows older, he strips the tree of its fruit, leaves, branches, and trunk — everything. But when he's old and in need of comfort, the tree still offers a stump for the boy to sit upon. It's a lovely, hauntingly sad tale about how a parent's love has no limits or conditions. And it also addresses the melancholy business of growing old, as the boy becomes almost like a child at the end of his life in the way that he needs the tree. There's a lot to talk about here.

    Click here to purchase The Giving Tree for $24.08.

  • I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak 5 of 8
    love you

    This one is pretty simple, but it's a message that bears repeating, especially in the aftermath of a tantrum. No matter what, kid, I love you. There's no story, just a list of all the ways the parent loves the child — inside and out, upside and down, here, there, and everywhere. It's comforting and warm.

    Click here to purchase I Love You Through and Through for $13.68.

  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst 6 of 8
    invisible string

    Speaking of comforting and warmth, The Invisible String is like a more advanced version of I Love You Through and Through. What seems like a corny metaphor — we're all attached by an invisible string? — turns out to be perfect for little ones, who just want to feel connected to their parents when they're upset. So even when Mom and Dad are at work, you can think of them and know that you're still tied together by an invisible bond of love. It's a bond that can't be broken, not even by anger. Which is a great message after there's been an all out blow-out between parents and kid. That string is still in place, and when the screaming and tears and kicks are all gone, we can get back to loving one another again.

    Click here to purchase The Invisible String for $12.20.

  • Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail 7 of 8
    bombaloo

    Talk about a Jekyll and Hyde — Katie Honors is normally a good girl, until her little brother knocks her blocks down one too many times and suddenly she's "Bombaloo," growling instead of talking and smashing everything in sight. Eventually she calms down, and all is good again, but for a few pages there, whew! Things are nuts. This one's especially good for normalizing extreme anger, because even good girls like Katie sometimes get pushed too far and go nuts. It's just a part of growing up.

    Click here to purchase Sometimes I'm Bombaloo for $5.71.

  • Feelings by Aliki 8 of 8
    feelings

    There's a lot to choose from here, as Feelings contains a number of short stories that address a gamut of feelings. Some work better than others, but if you pick and choose based on what your child is interested in (or struggling with), you're sure to find something of interest. I'm the kind of reader who likes short story books and Richard Scarry compendiums, so I dig this one. And because it doesn't have one singular message or focus, you might find your child returning to it again and again.

    Click here to purchase Feelings for $6.29.

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