The Ottersons' Eruption and the Art of Storytelling to Support Children's Mental Health

April 12, 2023

Infants' and toddlers’ mental health has suffered significantly over the past several years. Emotions are universally babies' first language and way of experiencing the world. As such, we have an opportunity to respond empathically to infants and young children and to connect with them in order to support their emotional well-being.

Related: The Ultimate Guide for Talking to Kids About Tough Topics

Use Books to Help Children Discuss Challenging Life Experiences

While there are many ways of being responsive to babies and young children and helping them identify, understand and manage their own emotions and those of others, storytelling is a powerful tool. It provides a safe and age-appropriate way to engage young children in conversations around challenging life experiences.

When I launched my ECSELent Adventures children’s book series, I did so to promote the building blocks of emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and empathy. A good story has the power to change how we think and feel. Children learn through the characters in the story how to recognize and identify what various emotions look like on faces and bodies. They also learn they are not alone with their feelings and that they have permission to feel them. Children aren’t born able to regulate their emotions, we must guide them. 

In The Ottersons' Eruption, Kids Learn Adults Have Emotions, Too

My latest book, “The Ottersons’ Eruption,” not only addresses the big emotion of anger experienced by the character Hemmy but also the anger experienced by Hemmy’s father. While children are learning about their own emotions, it’s important for them also to understand that the trusted adults in their lives also have big emotions that sometimes aren’t managed in the best way.

In Ottersons' Eruption, dad and Hemmy learn to manage and express their anger

The goal of “The Ottersons' Eruption'' is through a story about Hemmy not getting what the snack he wants in the grocery store and throwing a tantrum that then prompts his father to become very angry and yell at him - illustrating through the story how both children and adults can have outbursts and then address it. After the “eruption” in the grocery store, both Hemmy and his father need to take a break, do some belly breathing, and then talk about their feelings — both identifying better ways of handling situations like that in the future. 

Related: Find the ECSELent Adventures Book Series here. (Ottersons' Eruption will be available 

Expert-Created Guided Questions Can Help Adults to Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Children

Adults also need support in addressing these hard topics. At the end of each of my children’s books, I include guiding questions to help parents and teachers discuss the book and personalize the experience for the children. It includes tips about how young children process these experiences and suggestions for helping guide them through the process. 

Children learn through observing and imitating, and how we model, guide and respond which is why it’s so important that adults guide and model appropriate ways to express and manage what they’re feeling in order to model the most appropriate behavior for their children.

More books are coming in 2023. Get updates on the new release!

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