Some pain is too painful to touch directly. Some words struggle to be spoken out loud. How can we help children heal from wounds that feel too vulnerable and overwhelming to name?
There are many times when talking directly about something – especially about a vulnerable or painful ‘something’, and particularly with a child – is not the best approach.
However not talking about it is probably not the answer either.
This is where at Healing Hooves we advocate and follow an indirect approach. You can learn more about why and how to work this way – both within a therapeutic environment and at home – in our earlier blog post: One Horse Step Removed. For now we are sharing our ten top recommendations for stories to share with children. I have shared every book on this ‘attachment friendly’ list with numerous clients over the past twenty years, plus they have all received the thumbs up from my own kids!
For more information on how, when and to whom to read these and other therapeutic children’s books (including the Healing Hooves series) refer to our free users guide for therapeutic stories.
1.The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
This is a beautiful and gentle story story about holding on when apart in increasingly challenging situations. It talks about bridging physical separation, emotional separation (“Does the string go away when you are angry?”) and even death.
I read this book regularly to my own children when they were younger and regularly recommend it to parents – especially for children facing or struggling with any form of separation.
I also love that the ‘invisible string’ that connects the characters in this story also extends to the family cat!
2. A Wibble called Bipley by Margot Sunderland
Part of a wonderful series from a UK psychologist, this one explores emotional defenses: how they get there, how and why they get stuck, and how to help soften them. I love that this story acknowledges that having no defenses is not always the best solution, but choosing to be vulnerable when we feel safe and being aware of when we need to use our defenses works so much better than allowing defenses to take over.
This book is quite long, especially for a younger child, so I often split it into several reads, or paraphrase some parts of it.
3. Koala Lou by Mem Fox
This beautiful story follows a young koala bear who feels neglected when baby koala’s keep her Mom busy. Koala Lou tries to ‘earn’ her mother’s love and approval only to discover she’d never lost it in the first place.
I love the theme of unconditional love and the message that there is nothing we need to – or can – do to earn this love. Yet at the same time this story names the insecurity that children sometimes feel, especially when younger siblings arrive, and makes space for this to be acknowledged and addressed.
4. Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski
A firm favourite in our house, this hysterical story about a lamb who does not fit in with his peers has wonderful messages – for parents and their children – about being different, being you, and embracing it.
5. How Hattie Hated Kindness by Margot Sunderland
This explores how to soften defenses and help, including when a child is pushing everyone away aggressively. It allows parents to reframe what might be perceived as aggression in terms of defenses, and then to see and reach the vulnerable child underneath.
6. Ish by Peter Reynolds
This simple short book is awesome for perfectionists (and their parents) and for drawing out creativity. It also includes a nice sibling aspect.
7. Inside Out
Ok, this one is a movie, but it’s a great one for making space for all feelings, including the ones we sometimes have less room for. I love the scene in this movie where sadness knows just what to do!
8. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
The wisdom in this book never grows old!
I’ve always loved this book and the characters within it. One of these days there will be a Healing Hooves version of “Who the Pooh are you?” as we can clearly identify several of our horses and cats in terms of their “Pooh characters” and it would make a great transfer and self awareness exercise.
10. Fergus by Jean Abernethy
This one is for entertainment and amusement value – reminds me of the Thelwell books I grew up with!
Fergus has a great facebook page updated regularly with cartoons.
Thank you for reading our top ten list – I hope you found some new ideas and resources.
I encourage you to share some of your favourites, and why you like them, in the comments section below and also to look out for our blog posts on Top Ten Attachment Informed Parenting Books and Top Ten Non Fiction Books for Adults.