Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Using Books to Help Children Cope
Through books and stories, children cope more constructively
with complex emotions like fear and jealousy or stressful
experiences like starting school or moving to a new
neighborhood. Youngsters often identify strongly with
storybook characters, fanciful or realistic, and indirectly
work through their day-to-day problems by reading about
others' similar problems and resolutions. Children take
comfort in knowing they are not alone.
Once you locate a particular book at the library or
bookstore, read it through before sharing it with your child
to determine whether it will help your youngster make sense
out of his or her feelings. Books can form a vital
springboard for parent-child discussion. To enhance the
therapeutic value of books for your child:
- Select books that sensitively portray a similar problem
or emotion your child is experiencing.
(For a list of selected books, see Children's
Literature by Subject. )
- Ask your librarian for additional suggestions.
- You might gently introduce your child to the book by
saying it is about an experience the main character is
having with a certain problem or feeling. Do not make a
direct association between your child and the storybook
character. In addition, do not force your child to read
or listen to a story.
(Older children are usually resistant to a direct book
recommendation from a parent. Instead, have books on
topics like divorce, death, or sex education openly
- Read the book over and over again. Your child needs time
not only to absorb how the character handled the
situation, but also to think about how the problem and
solution might personally apply.
- Informally discuss the problems and concerns of the
book's main character.
- Listen to your child's interpretation of the feelings and
expectations of the main character.
- Stop to answer all of the questions your child asks.
Your conversation is more important than the story
- Finally, tell your child about a time in your childhood
when you experienced a similar feeling of vulnerability,
fear, excitement, or disappointment.