HELPFUL Books for Families
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Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul by Dr. Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughan. There are so many great quotes and wonderful information about the importance of play and it’s impact on our social lives. Read more of my thoughts on this book in my book review. If you’d like to learn more about the important role play has across our lifespan, pick up Play today!
NEW: Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics by Karen Kolp gives practical advice and easy to implement strategies with real life examples of ways we can parent our children in a positive and respectful way. Karen gives easy to implement strategies to meet our children where they are, notice and encourage their passions and make time for play.
Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel - Super quick and easy read all about mindfulness. Lots of hints for how to start practicing mindfulness as a family, and for your kids too. Lots of great activities to try and there are some great audio links too.
1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD 1, 2, 3 Magic was recommended to me by my pediatrician when my son was having some behavioral issues at home. I read the book, then shared it with my husband. We started implementing the recommendations, and it’s been amazing. There was an initial period of testing (and that was tough!) but once we got through that, our lives have changed. We’re less stressed as parents and we are enjoying when we are together as a family. I highly recommend this book!
Bloom: 50 Things to Say, Think, and Do with Anxious, Angry, and Over-the-Top Kids by Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young. Bloom tackles challenging issues facing families today in an easy to understand and practical way. The HeartSmart conversations and activities are wonderful ways to build positive connections in your family through play and communication. The BrainSmart Mantras help adults stay positive and re-focus on what matters. What a great resource!
Positive Parenting for Imperfect Families by Nicole Schwarz - Practical and down to earth ebook to help you connect, calm and teach your family in a positive and respectful way.
The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5 by ML Nichols: The mother of one of my daughter’s classmates recommended that I read The Parent Backpack. I’m so glad she did! This is an excellent resource for parents of elementary school age kids. Wonderful ideas for interacting with the school, understanding education today and transitioning into school.
The Incredible 5-Point Scale by Kari Dunn Baron and Mitzi Curtis is a great resource for people to use in a school setting, a social group setting or at home. It can be used to address a number of different issues, and it’s a great resource for working not only with kids on the spectrum, but for all kids who need a little extra teaching around social and emotional concerns. Read my review here.
All ABOUT FRIENDSHIP
For the younger crowd
Join in and Play by Cheri J. Meiners - A simple to understand book about how kids can join the group and play with others.
How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? by Jane Yolen - This is part of a books series (How Do Dinosaurs Clean their Room, How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, etc) The images of the dinosaurs make kids giggle!
How To Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson - Cute, tongue-in-cheek book that describes how to lose your friends, and helps kids understand what they should (and shouldn’t!) do to make and keep friends.
How To Be A Friend by Laura Krasny Brown and Marc Brown - This book is actually divided into several different sections on different parts of friendship including how to handle some of the more challenging aspects of friends like manage arguments, how to handle bullies, etc. Sometimes what I’ve done is just read certain sections of the book at a time to focus on a particular friendship skill.
For the late elementary/early middle school crowd
How to Make and Keep Friends by Nadine Briggs and Donna Shea - This book is quick and easy to read. There are 10 quick tips for 50 common social situations, like playdates at your house, joining in a group or staying on topic in a conversation. Read my review of the book here.
Girls Q&A book about friendship by Annie Fox, M.Ed - A great book about some of the more complicated situations that arise for tween girls. Annie Fox, M.Ed answers real girls questions in a relatable and practical way. Read my review here.
Making choices and making friends by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick. - This book is a part of a series focused on social competencies for kids, which I think is a great series. I find this book to be empowering for kids, letting them know that they have the power to be thoughtful and make decisions, and resolve issues in a respectful way.
Cliques, Phonies & Other Baloney by Trevor Romain - I love this author, he tackles serious issues like bullying and anger in a way that kids find humorous and relatable. I used to have kids borrow his books all the time from my office because they wanted to read more. This book is focused on managing cliques and the importance of being yourself.
Friends: Making Them & Keeping Them by Patti Kelley Criswell -This is an American Girl book, and it’s got some fun quizzes in it that kids enjoy taking. It even has craft project ideas for kids to do as a positive way to interact with one another, which you know I love.
A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship Troubles by Patti Kelley Criswell - This is another great American Girl book. I would often recommend this book to girls when I was a school counselor to help them understand that friendship troubles are common and there are things that can be done to help manage those difficulties. It helped kids focus on what a good positive friendship looks like and how to get there.
It’s So Much Work To Be Your Friend - I LOVE this book. It is full of so much helpful and practical information for parents with kids struggling with social aspects of life. The social skill autopsy is such a great resource to help kids that I would highly recommend it if your child is struggling in social interactions.
The Unwritten Rules of Friendship - Another great book for parents with some practical advice for understanding what’s happening with their child and with some advice for what to do to help support them. It’s divided into different personality traits/behavior characteristics (the shy child, the little adult) so you can just pick what you need to focus on and read that section. Read my review here.
Best Friends, Worst Enemies by Michael Thompson, PhD and Catherine O'Neill Grace. This book is a thorough examination of children’s social lives, from infancy through dating. The authors explore more specifics of how children develop friendships, manage and work through conflict, group dynamics, teasing and bullying.
Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals by Angie Voss. The book lists the different sensory signals that a child might demonstrate and is designed to be used in conjunction with Angie’s website, A Sensory Life. I've worked with a lot of kids who have difficulties with sensory input and this book and website had a wealth of information for parents whose kids struggle with sensory issues.
For the younger crowd (Preschool/Early Elementary):
When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang Poor sophie has a hard time managing her anger when she has to share gorilla with her sister. It’s a visually interesting book to show how big her feelings get and how it looks when she calms down again.
When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman This is part of “The Way I Feel” series. It explains how different things can make you angry, and that feeling angry is an expected part of life, but it’s what you do when you’re angry that matters.
Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed. Another great book that talks about how anger affects your body and suggesting safe ways to express yourself.
Angry Octopus by Lori Lite and Max Stasuyk A great book that actually is a progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing script for kids. It’s wonderful!
Late Elementary School/Early Middle School Crowd:
Don’t Rant and Rave on Wednesdays by Adolph Moser It mentions the consequences of having unchecked anger, and acknowledges that adults struggle with this too. A large part of the book explains different strategies kids can use to express anger in a safe way, which I think is great.
How to Take The Grrrr Out of Anger by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis I love using this book for kids who are having a hard time managing being angry. I typically read one chapter at a time with the kids and work on some of the strategies listed in the book.
What to Do When Your Temper Flares by Dawn Huebner This book has lovely illustrations and goes through “anger dousing” methods.
Chillax!: How Ernie Learns to Chill Out, Relax and Take Charge of His Anger by Marcella Marino Craver This is a graphic novel, perfect for the tween set.
Dealing With Anxiety
My Amazing Monster Beth Cimler created a playful way to help kids manage their worries. Gobble is a super cuddly monster who has a special power. He can eat worries! Children can write or draw their worries on a piece of paper, then have Gobble eat them.
The beauty of this is that you can later go in and read the children's worries and start a discussion about how to deal with it. Beth's wrote a book to go along with Gobble, focused on going to the hospital. She also has a book coming out soon about being bullied. I can't wait to read it!
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn Classic about managing separation anxiety when kids start school. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher read this on our visit to school the first day.
When I miss you by Cornelia Maude Spelman This is perfect for little ones who have a hard time dealing with the fact that they are away from their parents during the day. It suggests a couple of things they can do to help and reassurance that parents will come back at the end of the day.
Wemberley Worried by Kevin Henkes (Kevin Henkes also wrote Chrysanthemum, one of my favorite books!) Poor Wemberley worries about everything, and then she gets really worried when she is about to start school.
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook I love that when Wilma Jean’s physical reactions are described, they’re also illustrated. When is says she has knots in her stomach and her knees lock, her stomach really looks like it’s tied in a knot and there’s a real lock around her knees. I love the activity she does with her teacher, going over worries she can control and worries she can’t, it’s a great way to help kids manage their anxiety.
David and the Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci David’s anxiety is a beast, and the more anxious he gets, the bigger it grows. David learns to control his thoughts, and his beast shrinks. There’s also a couple of pages for parents and kids in the back.
When My Worries Get Too Big by Kari Dunn Buron This book is wonderful! There are several pages where kids can add in their own thoughts, worries and what helps them relax. This book also uses the 5 point scale to talk about stress and different ways to manage it.
What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, PhD This book goes through several ways that can help kids manage anxiety, including setting a time for worries, thinking about things that make you happy and resetting your body with activity or relaxation. There are some interactive places in this book, where a child can write down their worries, draw some images of things that might help, etc.
What To Do When You’re Scared and Worried by James J. Crist This is one of my favorite books for kids to help them deal with anxiety. Near the beginning of the book is a checklist that helps kids narrow down what they are anxious about. The beginning of the book covers the basics of what anxiety is and how to help manage with coping skills. The next section of the book goes into detail about different types of anxiety kids might experience, including Separation Anxiety, Phobias and Panic Attacks.
Dealing with Divorce/Shared Custody
Going Back and Forth: A Joint Custody Story by Marian Camden, Psy.D. From the author - Ethan loves both his mom and his dad, but going back and forth between two homes is hard! Joint custody allows children whose parents are divorced or separated lots of time with each parent, but the actual transitions back and forth can be tough. Children will relate to Ethan's changing feelings as he goes from his dad's house to his mom's house. Parents get nice modeling on how to help their children.
Where Do My Brother and Sister Go? by Marian Camden, Psy.D. From the author - There are plenty of picture books for children whose parents have gone through divorce. But what about the children that come later? These are the little "ours" children in the "yours, mine, and ours" families of modern times. These little ones have questions of their own about where their older half-siblings go, who this other parent is, what makes a "real" parent versus a "step" parent and so on. Where Do My Brother and Sister Go? is written just for them! With simple language, and heartwarmingly beautiful illustrations of contemporary family life, this book answers questions, explores feelings, and reminds everyone in a blended or stepfamily what really matters the most.