Feelings … Nothing More Than Feelings

Book Review Happy Sad & Everything in BetweenMy son Jacob is four and a half years old. Right now, he’s learning a lot of tricky lessons about handling his feelings. This is all pretty normal stuff, and I know that. I’ve been through it before with my daughter Hannah. Knowing it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Learning to handle strong emotions is challenging for my son, and for the people who live with him, too.

This is why, when I was offered a review copy of Happy, Sad, & Everything in Between, written by Sunny Im-Wang, Psy.D., S.S.P. and illustrated by Alex McVey, I jumped at it. Aimed at kids four through eight years old, the book aims to increase emotional literacy.

The main character is named Kai, and with ambiguous features my son swears that Kai is a boy and my daughter swears that Kai is a girl. This made the book easy for both of them to relate to. Kai is very obviously white, however, so I’m not sure if that would impact things for children with other racial backgrounds. I appreciated the gender neutrality nonetheless, because it also underscores that feelings are universal.

The book itself is more of a resource book than a story book. We did read it cover-to-cover, but it took us several nights to cover the whole thing. There’s an introduction, and then each page addresses one of 15 different emotions: happy, loving, scared, anxious, worried, tired, jealous, excited, sad, shy, embarrassed, lonely, calm, frustrated, angry and silly. There’s an explanation of what the motion feels like and some questions to consider (What embarrasses you? What do you look like when you’re feeling lonely? What thoughts do you have when you’re feeling angry?). Then, a box offers suggestions for how to help yourself handle the emotion.

book review happy sad everything in between emotional literacy

The book covers mindfulness in an easy-to-understand way, talking about sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. There’s an emphasis on how to feel calm, which appears throughout the book, especially when dealing with very strong emotions. Frankly, I can always use a refresher on that stuff myself.

I’m mostly using this book as a situational aid. For instance, sometimes when Jacob is upset now he’ll bring me the book and search out the page to describe how he’s feeling. Seeing Kai looking frustrated, and then reading through the suggestions for how to deal with frustration, is actually helpful for both of us. It lets him know that it’s okay to feel this way, and it gives me ideas for how to help my son when he’s overwhelmed by feelings.

While the age guideline is four to eight, I found it was more helpful for my four-year-old than my eight-year-old. My daughter Hannah has better vocabulary, more self-control and greater emotional literacy. While she enjoyed the book, I wouldn’t say that she got as much out of it as Jacob. I would suggest this book primarily to parents who can see that their children are having a hard time dealing with some of their feelings.

How did you help your kids learn to deal with strong feelings? I could always use more tips!

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  1. Thanks for this post!

    This book is sounds like it is slightly beyond my three year old’s comprehension level, but she will grow into it quickly. We are dealing with VERY BIG emotions right now that can be hard for everyone else in the family (and for her too, I’m sure). I love how your son goes and gets the book when he wants to describe how he’s feeling. When my six year old was younger we would read “When Sophie Gets Angry” to help her with her frustrations and how to calm down, but I like how this book discusses a range of emotions.
    christy’s last post … Greening Mother’s DayMy Profile

    • I think that you could easily tailor the content for kids who are a little younger, as well. I find that Jacob relates a lot to the pictures, and I suspect a three-year-old could access the book on that level. Because, yes, those little ones can have VERY BIG emotions!

  2. We are dealing with this with our almost 5 year old. Emotions! Oh we haz them in abundance!

    He gets so horrifically out of sorts about the smallest thing, and then can’t articulate what is wrong, or avoids it. We are at our wits end, and it is also manifesting in situational anxiety, potty accidents, and acting out physically when overstimulated. The school is also raising huge flags, and we are having a bit of a battle with them on how to deal with him. They want us to check for ADD, Autism… asking about medicating him to prevent potty accidents… He’s never been like this before, only in the last month. My doctor does not think he has either of those things, he’s just sensitive, or needs more time to “mature”.

    We are frustrated and worried. Help? Ack!

    Do you know if the book is available in Canada, and where I can purchase online? it looks like Little Sprouts does not ship to Canada, which is a shame. This book might help both me, my husband and our son navigate some coping strategies, or at least help us understand better..
    Caroline’s last post … 2013 Spring Toronto Tough Mudder RecapMy Profile

    • I don’t know – I just assumed it was available here. I’m going to email my contact and I’ll let you know.

      If you can’t get it in this country I will be seriously peeved.

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