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Supporting children's development
Supporting children's development

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3.4 Listening to children

Listening to children is a key theme within services for young children. It is also an important element in any intervention to support children with mental health issues as it provides the opportunity for children to feel that their feelings matter and, thereby, raises their self-esteem. It also enables the adults involved to gain an understanding of the issues for the child.

Sometimes children may not be able to express themselves clearly, or they may find it difficult to talk about how they are feeling. They may benefit from accessing professional therapy sessions to help them explore their feelings and work through the challenges to their emotional well-being.

There are various types of therapy that may be offered, from conventional talking therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, to therapies that enable children to express their feelings through play or art.

One way to get children to open up and discuss their worries and to find out how they are feeling is to share books with them that deal with ‘issues’.

Activity 11

Timing: Allow about 45 minutes

Have a look through the books on the Royal College of Psychiatrists [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] website and the Little Parachutes website.

Then look through the books in your school library or local library and identify two books that could be used to support children with difficulties, fears or worries they might have. Write a few lines to say how your chosen books could be used. We have given some examples below:

Everyone Has Feelings series by Picture Window Books

These books include titles such as Everyone Feels Angry Sometimes by Carl Mercer and Everyone Feels Sad Sometimes by Marcie Aboff. Each book focuses on one feeling and a situation associated with the feeling. The books help children to see that there is a solution and that they can combat how they are feeling.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake. ISBN: 0744598982, Walker Books

Michael Rosen shares his sad feelings about his son, who died, and writes about how he tries to cope with this sad event in his life.

Misery Moo by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross. ISBN: 1842705261, Anderson

This story is about a cow who is so miserable that Lamb finds her impossible to cheer up. In the end, though, Cow realises how important it is to have friends and to look for the best, not the worst, in things.

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne. ISBN: 0552545643, Corgi

The illustrations can be used to discuss feelings with children and young people as a trip to the park is explored through the eyes of four different characters.

Beegu by Alexis Deacon. ISBN: 0099417448, Red Fox

Beegu is from outer space and this story explores what it feels like to be ignored and rejected by adults. There are few words but the illustrations convey its message and give plenty to talk about.

Reading Lights Comic books for 4–7 year olds and their teachers and parents. Available from Comic Company or the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Four colour books that address what it is like to be different, and provide a framework for parents, social workers and teachers to support children.

Books for older children to read themselves

There are a number of children’s authors who have written fiction books on real-life issues for children. Reading these stories can help children to work through and cope with their own life issues.

Authors include:

  • Jacqueline Wilson
  • Morris Gleitzman
  • Lemony Snicket
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There are lots of books for children that could be used as a basis for a discussion about feelings and to help a child understand the challenges in their life.

The Little Parachutes website has a range of relevant books for younger children and information related to fear and worries, some of which are downloadable. You may also have found that national support websites, such as Mind and the National Autistic Society, also provide useful reading lists and booklets.

Building up your own resource list and keeping it updated will help you to offer timely suggestions to older children and provide reading opportunities for younger children.