December Feature: Finding Feelings
In this unique search-and-find book, children read body language and use situational clues to locate both good and difficult feelings in the characters. Finding Feelings builds emotional vocabulary, gently exposes children to uncomfortable emotions, and encourages compassion towards others. It is a little book for big hearts!
We interviewed Jennifer about why children should learn to process their difficult feelings, how parents can help their children with their emotions, what children can take away from her book, and more!
How did you come up with the idea of a search-and-find book that enhances children’s emotional language?
Emotional intelligence is so interesting, but also comforting. Unlike a person’s IQ, their “EQ” (emotional quotient; a person’s ability to manage emotions and relate to others ) can be nurtured and encouraged. It’s a metaphorical muscle we can grow where zero dumbbells are required. I love the idea that something so critical to our well-being isn’t a stagnant number, but can evolve.
Writing a search-and-find book for children that speaks to the foundational aspects of their emotional intelligence was a blast. In Finding Feelings, children can search for feelings, and relate to the characters experiencing both good and difficult ones. These difficult feelings (embarrassment, frustration) can be powerful and easily overwhelm a young child. But from the safety of their parent’s lap or classroom, a child can read this book and engage with these uncomfortable feelings the characters experience.
To actually answer your question, though, I thought of this book on a walk! Walking seems to be the cool thing for authors to do nowadays. It works for Steven King and Anne Lamott, and while I shouldn’t compare myself to these greats, walking worked for me.
What were some of the biggest challenges when writing this book?
Securing Terri Kelleher, the illustrator, to partner with me was my biggest hurdle. She is the mastermind behind the art and made my ideas a reality. She worked quickly, to my exact requests, and gave me art that exceeded all my expectations. In a search-and-find book, it is the artist that can make or break the vision. I am forever grateful for her ability to bring Finding Feelings to life.
Why do you believe children should be exposed to uncomfortable emotions and difficult feelings at a young age?
When my oldest son was a toddler, he hid under a car for an uncomfortably long period of time, completely embarrassed over his new haircut. I remember feeling so helpless; how do I get him to come out? His humiliation over the fresh cut completely flooded his little brain. He just would not come out. Emotions are so powerful, and they can easily hijack our reactions.
My kids need every tool to help them process their feelings. Powerful feelings can be so formative, and what better place to deal with the complicated world of anger, sadness, and Lord-help-me, embarrassment, than from the safety of a book? Kids need help processing all sorts of feelings, both difficult and positive, and Finding Feelings shows up for them.
What do you hope young readers will learn and take away from this activity book?
I hope kids find this book just plain fun. Obviously, I wrote this book to teach, but my ultimate goal is to entertain. If a child picks up a few life lessons along the way, lovely.
For parents and educators who want to dive deeper, I provided a list of follow-up questions in the back of the book to help guide conversation with their kids about emotions. I hope they’re useful.
What can parents do to support their children who are struggling with their emotions?
Depending on the situation, I would start by validating their emotions. Name the feeling and mirror the child. “I see you’re angry. I WOULD BE ANGRY TOO! SO ANGRY! AHH!” It can be shocking for a toddler (or teenager) to be met not with resistance, but acceptance.
Our schools have been embracing social-emotional learning for a while now. Bravo! Counselors and teachers are working overdrive to teach children about relating to others, grit, emotion naming, and stress management, to name a few. I hope my book can slide into their bookshelves as another helpful and fun resource.
What is next for you? Any more books we should be on the lookout for?
Writing a book is like getting a tattoo; as soon as the ink dries, you start thinking of the next one.
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