Book review – Feel a Little by Jenny Palmer

Feelings – we’ve all got them, all the time, and so do our kids. While we’re usually a bit more articulate than our children at explaining our emotions, more often than not, we’re learning alongside them. If you or your little one struggles to find the words sometimes, this book is for you.

I first found about Feel a Little on a Saturday morning radio segment. I was listening in at the studio before I was about to go on, and as the author Jenny Palmer left, after having talked through her new book with the host, I begged for a pre-read. I’m so glad I did. It’s a beautiful book, and a must-have for parents of preschool and primary aged children.

Feel a Little

Each feeling has its own page and is a different shape and colour. This isn’t just eye-catching, but really representative of how feelings can sit within us, sometimes soft and full, and at other times sharp and angular. Feel a Little uses poems and words we can all understand, and these are helpful even for adults when it comes to articulating feelings. Frustration, for example, feels ‘prickly’. I think we can all relate to feeling frustrated and prickly.

Every poem ends with a bit of inspiration to help the child process the feeling. Maybe your child is feeling bored, and they sit down with the book and read about what it’s like to feel bored. At the end of the poem, they’ll be encouraged to be curious.

How it can help you

Feel a Little will help your child tell you what’s going on for them on the inside. Hopefully, this will help them to avoid the inevitable explosions that come when feelings simmer without expression for too long. So often, when kids exhibit big feelings through tantrums or oppositional behaviour, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What we see on top is the tossing of toys, but what lies below is a build up of frustration, of sadness, of unmet need. If your child understands what they’re feeling, they’re much less likely to lash out and less likely to let things get pent up to the point of a big explosive episode.

It’s not just about giving the kids the words, it’s about giving parents the platform to ask questions. Reading the book alongside your child will give you the chance to connect with them. You can snuggle up on the couch, read a poem, and then ask the question, “Do you ever feel that way?” Here, it’s helpful to be able to relate to the feeling yourself. If a child knows that a grown up has felt that way too, that it’s normal and it’s totally possible to cope. You could possibly share a story about a time that you’ve felt shy or nervous, and this will allow for greater connection and communication.

Better than asking why

Asking questions or helping them label their feeling will make them much more likely to open up to you about what’s happening in their inner world than if you asked them why. Take it from me, why isn’t a helpful way to go about working out how to help your child. Why can be perceived as confrontational – even your facial expression when asking why can make it feel that way. Try it now, prepare yourself to ask the question why, and I bet you’ll feel your face firm up and your brows get a little furrowed. That’s not the way to start an open and supportive conversation, but Feel a Little can help you with that.

Another great thing about Feel a Little is the sense that no feelings are off limits or wrong. It will enable your child to make sense and help them own them instead of making them feel shamed. This is really powerful. When you give a child’s feelings permission to exist, you’re actually giving them permission to exist.

You can pick up Feel a Little at Parenting Place book store. If you’d like to know more about big feelings, you can also come along to a talk I’m co-hosting a talk with Jenny Hale at Parenting Place in July called ‘Big feelings’. I’d love to see you there.