Using Books to Help Children Cope

Through books and stories, children learn how to cope with emotions such as fear and jealousy. Books can also help children deal with stressful experiences like starting school or moving to a new neighborhood. Children often identify strongly with storybook characters. They can work through their own problems by reading about others' similar problems and solutions. Children take comfort in knowing they are not alone.

Once you find a book at the library or bookstore, read it yourself before sharing it with your child. Decide if you think it will help your child make sense out of his or her feelings. Books can be a way for you and your child to talk about things. Here are some other ideas:

  • Ask the librarian for suggestions.
  • Select books about a problem or emotion similar to what your child is going through.
  • Do not force your child to read or listen to a story. Mention that the book is about a character dealing with a certain problem or feeling. It is usually best not to tell your child that the storybook character "is just like you". Older children often resist being told by a parent to read a certain book. Instead, leave books on topics like divorce, death, or sex education out where they can see them.
  • Your child may want to read the book over and over again. He or she needs time to absorb how the character deals with things. Your child also needs to think about how the problem and solution might personally apply.
  • Talk with your child about the problems and concerns of the book's main character. Tell your child stories about your childhood when you felt vulnerable, scared, excited, or disappointed.
  • Listen to your child's view of the feelings and expectations of the main character.
  • Stop to answer all of the questions your child asks. Talking with your child is as important as the story itself.
Written by Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2006-10-16
Last reviewed: 2008-11-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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