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Mental health matters – start the conversation with a book

Felix After the Rain shows children how they can take charge of their feelings.

Buy Felix After the Rain

Children are often confronted with all kinds of worries. Stories are invaluable when it comes to discussing emotions and feelings with young children. Using books to explore mental health issues can help to increase awareness, develop real understanding and encourage further discussion. 

It’s so important for children to voice their fears. They may not be able to verbalise how they feel, but can books make this more accessible. Illustrations are so important in this respect – if children have no way of communicating or verbalising how they feel, the pictures offer a way in. They might be able to identify with the lonely looking character, or relate to the dark, uninviting storm clouds.   

But we don’t have to just use books in a reactive way. Indeed, if we discuss different emotions before they happen, we can provide children with the right vocabulary to express how they feel. Through her words and illustrations in Felix After the Rain, Dunja’s overriding message shows children just how they can take charge of their worries or anxieties. Felix isn’t quite sure what is going inside his suitcase, he just knows these things don’t make him feel very happy. It doesn’t matter what they are. Ultimately, things will feel better if we open up about our worries, rather than bury them away.

Dunja’s use of the suitcase as a symbol for all of Felix’s worries building up is powerful. Luggage is often used to symbolize a holiday or a journey, but here Felix is stuck, permanently weighed down by his heavy suitcase. We can choose whether we want to carry a suitcase which weighs us down or sets us free! It’s important to remember that we are all on a long winding journey with our emotions, life is not a set destination.

We’ve put together some questions you could ask your child as you’re reading together:

  • What makes you feel sad?
  • How do you think Felix is feeling when he walks up the hill?
  • Where do you think Felix is going?
  • What would you do if Felix was your friend?
  • Why does Felix cry?
  • Felix loves the clouds, bright flowers and swimming in the clear blue sea. What makes you feel happy?

Written by Sorca Davis, Tiny Owl intern 

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