Best Books for Young & Elementary Aged Children to Teach Emotion Regulation

When I was in kindergarten or first grade, I had such bad hearing loss due to fluid in my ears that I couldn’t hear well. I remember sitting right in front of our little 13” black and white TV with the volume turned almost all the way up and still struggling to hear it. My mom came in the room and asked me what I was doing, and I told her I couldn’t hear the TV. Shortly after that, I went to several doctors and ended up with tubes in my ears. While I don’t remember the exact timeline of events, I remember finally being able to sit further back from the TV and watch my favorite cartoons at normal volume. Shortly after this, I also remember that I started getting pulled out of the regular classroom to get help with reading. Apparently, I wasn’t reading very well. I’m sure the two were connected, the memories are just pretty fuzzy from that time period to say for sure. I have always loved to read so I’m so thankful that the school caught my reading delay early and gave me the extra help to catch up.

I’m pretty sure my struggle with hearing and learning how to read was what led me to become a teacher in the first place. Later, when I took a teaching job in Texas, I was thrilled that it was going to be for Reading and Social Studies, two of my favorite subjects! 

As a tribute to my love of reading, and how often I use books with children in therapy, or give book recommendations to my client’s, this month’s post will highlight some of my favorite books or topics. 

This week I’m focusing on books for children in early elementary school. These books would be good for children about 7 years old and younger. I have all of these in my office and use them often in therapy with children. 

The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite

An octopus gets angry and learns how to relax using progressive muscle relaxation. I love to teach kids to do progressive muscle relaxation because it helps us be more aware of our internal experiences in the body and gives us a sense of where our bodies are in relationship to other things. Progressive muscle relaxation is helpful for brain training and to help us calm down so that we have more emotional awareness.

I Can Handle It by Laurie Wright

This is a quick read that reinforces the fact that even when things are hard or frustrating, we can handle it. I actually remind myself pretty often that I can handle frustrating situations too!

When My Worries Get Too Big by Kari Dunn Buron

I like this book a lot because it gives a 1-5 scale for helping kids measure the intensity of their feelings. There are also a few tips on how to calm down and a plan to help kids make their own plan for calming down.

My Mixed Emotions by DK books

For the most part, I think DK books publishes very quality books for children and this is no exception. It’s based on research and highlights several of the things I teach everyone in therapy: where do you feel feelings in your body, how intense are those feelings, what coping skills can you use for each, etc. It’s a great way to teach children about their feelings and what to do with them. 

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jr. by Kristen A. Jenson, MA

This is a great book for introducing children to the dangers of the pictures they potentially can be exposed to while being on electronic devices. Unfortunately, the research is showing that children are getting exposed and some getting addicted to pornography at younger ages than ever before, and it’s affecting both males and females equally. This is a good introduction to talking with your children about Internet safety and gives a plan for families to follow if a child sees something they’re not supposed to see. As much as we would like to be able to monitor all aspects of our children when it comes to the Internet and social media, there are times that we can’t be with them such as the bus, a friend’s house, etc. This is just a good book to get the conversation started early and often.

These books are good for Elementary Aged Children: 

Hunter and His Amazing Remote Control by Lori Ann Copeland

I use this book most often with children who have impulsivity issues such as ADD. It’s a practical way to help them slow down and think through their actions and how, with practice, they can get better at managing their impulsivity. Most children I know are somewhat impulsive simply due to their development.

I Don’t Like the Sound of No by Julia Cook

This book is great for children who have a difficult time with authority figures, or think they’re mature enough to make their own decisions. I especially like the middle section where this book teaches, “How to Accept No for an Answer,” and “How to Disagree the Right Way.” I have children make both of these into a poster and hang it somewhere in their house as a reminder about how to handle No for an answer. Julia Cook also has several books that teach children social skills such as apologizing, anger management, being assertive vs. bossy and many more. 

What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith

While this book also helps children with impulsivity issues, it takes a different approach by identifying the behaviors that’s getting Braeden in trouble at home and school. It teaches children to slow down and think through how their actions affect others.

You’ve Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave & Nick Maland

One of the reasons I picked this book is because I love the illustration but I use this book often in therapy as well, mostly with children who are experiencing anxiety. The funny thing about anxiety is the more you think about it, the bigger it gets. Ben, the main character, realizes that once the dragons show up, he sees them everywhere. It’s a subtle way to teach children that these things happen and there is something you can do about it. 

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson, MA

 Highlighted the Jr. version of this book last week and I think it’s so good that it’s worth putting it in here again. This book is for older children and has great information about how to talk to your kids about things they may see online and how to keep them safe. And in case you missed it last week, the research is showing that children are getting exposed and some getting addicted to pornography at younger ages than ever before, and it’s affecting both males and females equally. This book gives a plan for families to follow if your child sees something online that they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to be able to monitor all aspects of our children when it comes to the Internet and social media, there are times that we can’t be with them such as the bus, a friend’s house, etc. This is just a good book to get the conversation started early and often.

One of the major findings of attachment research has shown that children do best when they have a parent who is attuned to them. Attunement has two parts. One is that we are able to anticipate what our child needs. For example, if they’re getting frustrated about a toy, we might say, “Here, let me help you with that.” The other part to attunement is being able to label what the child is feeling. In the same example, we might say, “You look frustrated, here, let me help you with that.” As children get older, they’re able to recognize what they’re feeling and how to manage similar situations, thus gaining more emotion regulation. I picked these books for parents because they teach parents not only what is happening with their children when they have big emotions but  how to attune to them as well in those moments. 

My Top 3 favorite Parenting Books: 

The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel

I often use the “brain hand” example with all of my clients to give them a clearer idea of what’s happening in the brain when they get dysregulated. You can see the video here of the one I use with my clients.  This is a great book for parents to help them understand what their child needs to develop necessary social and emotional skills. 

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control by Heather T. Forbes & Bryan Post

This is hands down one of my all time favorite books for parents, especially adoptive parents. While the authors have a very similar take on how the brain gets dysregulated, they teach their readers to have a paradigm shift regarding their child’s behaviors. The book is filled with “old” ways and “new” ways to handle difficult behavior such as lying, stealing, impulsivity and anger. If you have a defiant child, and you can only pick one book this should be it! 

How to Talk to so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

I like this book because it teaches adults to be in charge of the conversation with children so they will talk. When adults/parents come at children aggressive and angry, they will shut down, then parents get frustrated because their child isn’t talking and they get more mad, and the child gets more shut down. It’s a vicious cycle. This book teaches parents exactly what to say and do to stop or slow down this cycle, as well as helping them understand what the child needs in that moment. 

If you have a child struggling with big feelings or having difficulty regulating their emotions, these books can provide them education on what’s happening and give them tools for calming down. There are a lot of great books out there and I’d love to know if you found one that you really love that you think I should add to my collection! Next week, I’ll have some book recommendations for learning about and managing your finances. 

If you think you might be in need of counseling or coaching, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling

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