At the end of an extra long day, I often find myself grumpy, irritable, and snappy with my family. I can't count how many times my husband has asked me what's wrong in a situation like this, and I also can't count how many times I have reacted with a shrug or sudden tears. It's hard for me to put into words the emotions that are swirling around inside. Usually, I just need a nap or an early bedtime, but other times I need to process the specific irritants or drains on my emotions.
The same is even more true for children. They can feel emotions strongly, but may not yet possess the vocabulary to explain what they are feeling. In our home, those emotions manifest themselves in fights between siblings, disrespectful responses, and sudden tears (they are my children after all).
I was so grateful to be able to read an advanced copy of Tell God How You Feel by Christina Fox which will officially release this Friday, March 5. My two middle children (6 and 9 years old) and I set aside time to cuddle under our heated blanket and discuss each manageable chapter.
The book covers incredibly common emotions such as fear, sadness, rejection, loneliness, and gratefulness. As we moved through the book, I noticed four repeated tools that Christina used to make this an effective book for young children.
1. The stories cover the lives of children in one family. Both Mia and Josh experience a variety of circumstances and the positive and negative emotions that accompany them. The stability of the same characters was helpful for my children. It allowed them to feel invested in the stories and understand the feelings the fictional kids were feeling throughout the book. The specific examples given in the stories is also helpful as the readers imagine themselves processing the same emotions as Mia and Josh.
2. Scripture is vital to the approach to emotions in this book. Each time one of the kids feeling a certain way, one or both of the parents in the book takes the time to identify and pin-point what the child is feeling. Using names for the emotions is super helpful as well (ex..."It's hard when a friend moves away. Especially such a good friend. You must feel lonely without him."). The counsel doesn't stop there, however. I loved how the parents guided the children to a passage in the Psalms where the same emotions were expressed. This allows the child to understand that God, our Creator, knows and understands our emotions. He cares when we are sad or lonely. What a critical truth for our children to cling to as they mature!
3. The discussion at the end of each was our favorite part. After the fictional story, truth is presented in a series of questions about that particular emotion giving the readers (both the parents and children) the chance to share instances in which they have felt or struggled with same emotion as the characters experienced in the story. The inclusion of additional scripture references to read with older children was also helpful in deepening the conversation. We ended each time in prayer creating a sweet time of bonding around God's Word.
4. Finally, the illustrations captured the attention of my youngest reader. They are fun, colorful, and intriguing and pair perfectly with the stories.
This book will become a staple in our family library. Depending on the circumstances that arise, I know that we will pick it up again as a springboard for more Christ-centered discussion about processing our emotions well.