Life doesn’t come with a manual. That’s why, there are many books out there that can help you navigate through life in a much better way. But, are there any for kids?
For kids, there are storybooks, colouring books, puzzle books and parents and teachers. While they do their best to help children form good habits and face their fears, they are not always equipped to tend to the mental and emotional well being of a child. Besides, there are certain things that a child must learn herself. An inner, emotional journey she needs to go on her own. This is where Mallika Chopra’s non-fiction workbook, Just Feel: How to Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier, and More, comes into the picture.
According to the study conducted by IIHMR University, Jaipur, nearly 50 million children in India suffer from mental illnesses. Despite this staggering number, there are no policies to tackle that. In India, where talking about mental and emotional health is still a taboo, these kids will grow up to be emotionally repressed and mentally challenged. No parent would want this for their child and yet, they are unaware of ways to help her. They often take happiness to be the only sign of emotional well being. When in fact, it is being able to feel sad, frustrated and angry without feeling like it’s abnormal behaviour.
We’ve all watched how Ishaan Awasthi in the movie, Taare Zameen Par, struggled and how masterfully he hid his condition under his arrogance and anger. He had parents who cared and provided for him, and yet, they didn’t have the right tools to understand what was wrong with their boy. The boy’s father lacked the fundamental tenet of mental health.
Can you guess what’s that?
It’s acceptance. Yes, accepting the situation and an entire range of emotions without feeling overwhelmed by it. Once the father in the film accepted that his child needed additional help and once the child accepted that help, the journey became a joy ride.
Just Feel is the book that eases this part for parents and kids — it allows parents to open a dialogue with their children on physical, emotional and social wellness. The book has basic information and practical exercises that can help a child manage stress better. It empowers children with the right tools to build their resilience and feel normal while seeking help.
The good thing is that the book does not require any extra, special materials other than what’s already in there. Whenever a child runs into a crisis, she can simply open that chapter and approach her parent for a discussion.
Know. Choose. Act.
These are the three sections of the book that help readers identify their emotions, choose a response, and act accordingly.
- Know: One’s environment and inner world
- Choose: One’s outlook, approach, goal, communication
- Act: Express your emotion with the right behaviour
The book has dozens of real-life scenario-based, time-bound exercises that help the child (as well as parents) deepen their self-knowledge and self-efficacy. The idea is to be mindful and deliberate with your words and actions without condescension or judgement.
If you know how you feel, you can make smart choices and act to create the life you want.
As expected the book resonates well to its ideal audience, kids aged 8-12 years, with attractive illustrations varying in hairstyles, skin tones, facial features, etc. Nonetheless, its lessons are timeless and can even help parents reflect on their emotions and actions to heal and move forward.
Kids learn their emotional wellness from parents. The book inspires parents to apologise if they get angry and take out their stress on kids, and let them know that parents too have frustrating moods. Such awareness and acceptance of emotions will encourage the child to share her own struggles and shortcomings with her parents. The loneliness and fear that we all face every day will be taken care of for the kids.
Can it help kids having a genuinely rough time?
I don’t think so. The book’s advice of using kind words and feeling your body may not help kids that are deeply troubled. It’s important to remember that the book is a self-care guide to help a child open up and prepare her for emotional and mental health challenges in future. Therefore, it cannot replace a child counsellor or a therapist and it’s inappropriate to expect that kind of help from a children’s book.
However, I strongly feel that if you’re expecting your child to change a certain behaviour after following this book’s exercises, and it doesn’t come through, then you should reach out to a professional. In those terms, the Just Feel can serve as an ideal diagnostic tool to know if your child is dealing with normal growing up issues or there’s something more.
Parents, this quote if for you. If you feel your child needs more help, know that it’s okay to ask for it.
Over to you
We teach children a lot of good habits and physical care activities. But, unfortunately, there is no formal education of mental health. It has started in Delhi Government Schools, but not everywhere. Most kids are never guided on becoming aware of your feeling, regulating them and being resilient in the face of challenges.
According to WHO, half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. What if you could prepare your child well in advance for that?
(Yes, that’s an affiliate link: Clicking and buying from it wouldn’t cost you extra, but the commission might help me review more books.)