8 children's books that teach kindness and self-love

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This is a hard post to write. I didn't know whether to even write about it, but I think it’s an important one. Since Daddy Big Feet went back after Christmas RnR, Little Feet A has struggled. A lot. It started with nightmares - horrific ones. Then something happened at school and hysterical tears followed. Then we have had weeks of tears before school, tears during school, tears after school. We have had clinginess at home, needing more love affirmations, more cuddles, more deep conversations and more regular nought to ten tantrums.

I understand that the underlying problem is that she is missing her Daddy terribly, but as a result her confidence has plummeted dramatically. Her need for me to be with her all the time is a clear indication of this. Suddenly school which was used to adore has become scary, the days too long for missing me and the playground terrifying. Where once she used to thrive, it has become a place of unease. Being for the most part fine in the close confines of her classroom setting, she fixates on the playground.

After much gentle talks with her over the last weeks, I began to see that she was beginning to realise that we are all different. Or at least she was struggling to make sense of it. My Little Feet A thrives in smaller contexts. Since school started I’ve noticed that where people call her name on the way to school, she doesn’t know what to do with that attention. She likes having a small group of friends and becomes overwhelmed if the group gets bigger. It throws her comfort zone out of whack. And lastly, she seems to have noticed that she wants to do different things than play ‘My Little Pony’ all the time in the playground.

I became apparent after talking to her over some days that she had developed a fear of asking her friends if they wanted to play her games because one of them had said they didn’t want to play them on a couple of days on the trot. I asked her what she likes to do in the playground she said ‘exercise’. Which made me inwardly laugh out loud as she is so her father’s daughter. Whose main dream from having kids is waiting for the day he can go for runs with them. Genuinely!

Little Feet A is 4 years old and I naively thought that I’d be having a discussion about friends, friend dynamics and individuality when she was a bit older. But you see, she is very like me as well. She FEELS. She feels ALL the feels. She is so in touch with her own emotions and those of others. She’s an empath. We feed off people’s energy, and can quickly sense something is off. We have a deep empathy to people’s emotions.

It has been a tough old few weeks. Emotionally very draining. So I have done what our Little Rainbow Tree Unit always does when we need to underline a topic and find some escapism.

We create and we read.

Oh and eat cake…

So we made a DIY Dollhouse where the whole process took about a week. Then I moved on to books. Books about the meaning of kindness, the difference between unkindness and kindness and most importantly about self-love. About how we are all different, how that is ok. How being all the same would be so boring. How she was made perfectly, put on this planet to be her, no one else. Sometimes using someone else’s words when you are tripping over your own or are eager to emphasis your point I find is the most effective.

It’s been a really humbling experience. She’s cried, I’ve cried, we’ve cried together. We’ve had discussions about what courage is. She’s been a scared bear cub and I have been a fierce protective mama bear. But being protective doesn’t mean hiding them away for ever and wrapping them up in cotton wool. It means equipping them with the tools to go out into the world without you and be ok, however painful that is for you to watch. And trust me, it’s painful.

I am glad to say that this week things have been getting a little better. Yesterday she proudly told me that she didn’t cried at school. I was so proud of her and I told her just that. She knows it’s ok to cry and today she did just that when I dropped her off at school. Those emotions are there for a reason. But letting her know that I’m proud of her for not crying and letting her know that continuing to carry on and trying her best and talking about her feelings with me? That. That is courageous. If we are all honest with ourselves life is all about being courageous.

So, here are some books that have helped us. I hope a couple of them speak to you and your Little Feet too.

  1. You Are Special, by Max Lucado

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Oh this book. I have so much love for this book. When I first had Little Feet A, I got given this by another forces wife. I’d never heard of it before but it holds a special place in my heart. There was a town filled with wooden people called Wemmicks. They were made by a carpenter called Eli and he lived in his workshop on the hill overlooking their town. Eli made each Wemmick different, there were no two the same. Each Wemmick liked to hand out Stars or Dot stickers. Stars were given if a Wemmick looked very beautiful, said something funny or could do something brilliant. Whereas Dots were given out if you perhaps weren’t so pretty, had chips in your wood, said something silly or fell over.

The story follows the Wemmick Punchinello who was always covered in lots of Dots. He was always falling over or saying something silly. "He deserves lots of dots, the wooden people would agree with one another. He's not a good wooden person. After a while, Punchinello believed them. I'm not a good Wemmick, he would say." One day he met a Wemmick called Lucia, she didn’t have any Stars or Dots and any that got put on her just simply fell straight off. After talking to her she said he should go see Eli on top of the hill. So he did. During their chat he says, "Who are they to give star or dots? They're Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special." Toward the end of their conversation Eli says to Punchinello, ‘Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.’

Eli is off course meant to represent God and the Wemmicks humans. Whether you are an Atheist, Agnostic or Believer the message remains. No one has the right to bring you down, only you can allow that hurt to fester. This is a hard lesson, one that adults regularly struggle with. Let’s teach our children then that they are perfect, just the way you are. I don’t think there is better message to teach your Little Feet, do you?

2. The Night Dragon, by Naomi Howarth

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Maud is a dragon, but doesn’t fit in with all the other night dragons. They all breathe out smoky fire that covers the land in sooty grey clouds to help bring nightfall over the world. The other dragons leave Maud out and calls him names. Maud doesn’t even think he can fly let alone blow clouds. One day after one of the night dragon’s birthdays they all fall asleep and don’t wake up to bring nightfall. With encouragement from Mouse, Maud’s only friend, he takes courage and jumps off the cliff flapping his wings. He finds he can fly and not only that when he breathes fire the most stunning multicoloured smoke and clouds come from his nostrils. Maud and Mouse spend their days filling the Earth with the most beautiful sunsets. So next time you see a sunset scattered with rainbow hues, you’ll know who has been flying over you! A stunning book about friendship and encouragement.

3. The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

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Teaching children kindness from a young age is so important. School and the playground can be so daunting for some children and I have talked to many teachers and teaching assistants who find it really painful watching scenarios play out in front of them. For younger school children it can often be words that can have a profound lasting affect on their confidence levels. This story is about Brian, the invisible boy. He feels like he is invisible because no other children include him in their games and conversations. That is until a new boy comes to school. Brian is the first to make him feel welcome and they team up and become friends. What a wonderful book that leads to some fantastic conversations about our actions and kindness.

Being a mother of forces children who move from school to school a lot, the book really pulls on my heart strings. Kindness costs nothing. If every parent were to make a conscious effort to actively talk about how kindness can change a situation I wonder what the world would be like in 10 years time.

4. The Sleepy Songbird, by Suzanne Barton

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This is a story about how, Peep a little bird hears the Dawn Chorus and is blown away how beautiful they all sound. Peep desperately wants to join their choir but for the life of him cannot wake up in time to sing with them. Every time he tries he ends up sleeping through the time to sing or is just too tired to join in. After much anguish Peep meets a Nightingale and quickly realises the reason he can’t be part of the Dawn Chorus is because he was meant to sing at dusk and not dawn! The sweet simplicity of this book teaches the beauty of being different and that there is much beauty in how we are made.

5. Dear Girl, by Amy Krous Rosenthal Paris Rosenthal

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Written by a mother-daughter duo this book is for anyone with a daughter or daughters. Heck, even sons! It encourages your girls to look in the mirror and say out loud what they like about their looks, it tells them it’s ok to be smart, it’s ok to be thoughtful and quiet, it’s ok to just want to cry and cry. It’s about raising strong and confident daughters who know their self-worth and knowing that above all else, they can come and tell their Mummy and Daddy anything.

6. I Am Enough, Grace Byers

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A book about differences. Simply written but effective, it is about race and most importantly, the beautiful symmetry of difference and similarity. We are all different, in colour, size, looks, intelligence, speech, but we are all human and therefore all equal. Great for teaching your Little Feet about diversity, especially if you live in an area where there isn’t much racial diversity.

7. Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall

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An extremely relevant book about identity and conforming to the stereotype. Red, is a crayon. The trouble is, he isn’t very could at being Red. However hard he tries, and he does try hard, he just can’t quite seem to be Red. Everyone has an opinion (don’t they always?!) on how he could try and be better, what might help him, if only he tried harder. One day Purple, asked him if he might draw a blue sea for her purple boat. Confused at her request, Purple encourages him to just try and what do you know he is actually Blue, not Red and he is actually very good at being Blue! This book is about being true to who you were made to be.

8. You’re Here For A Reason, by Nancy Tillman

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One for anyone who feels downtrodden and at the end of their tether. For those feeling painfully lonely, for mothers and fathers who feel the weight and struggle of parenthood, for children who feel like they aren’t good enough or that their bad moods are world ending. This book is beautifully illustrated with children and animals on every double page. At the beginning of the book a ball and a kite gets lost and blown away. Instead of showing the despair on the children’s faces they shown them how the ball brings happiness to people all over the world and how the ribbons on the kite do the same. The unintended ripples of kindness spread far and wide across the world. The moral of the story, it is ok to be down, but you are here for a reason, you belong and someone is relying on you. You would be so missed. The book ends with the greatest sentence of all - You are loved.

We remember them...

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Today marks the day for a couple of things. Today as a family we start the day as the longest time the girls have gone without seeing their Daddy. They last saw him 3 weeks and 1 day ago.

It is also Remembrance Day, the anniversary of 100 years since the end of World War 1. Remembrance Day is important every year, but always a little more poignant when your other half is away on an overseas deployment. One can’t help buy think about all those wives who lost their husbands, all the children that lost their fathers, everyone that lost someone. In the UK, in November we wear poppies to remember those who died in battle in WW1.

Why wear a poppy? Where does it come from?

Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in spring of 1915 saw poppies growing on one of the fields that was battle scarred. These flowers are delicate but resilient and grew again amongst the warfare and after all other wildlife scattered and refused to grow in these places. These flowers inspired McCrae to write a poem called, ‘In Flanders Fields.’

Moina Michael, an American academic who was in turn inspired by this poem felt moved to start making poppies made from silk. They were then brought to England by a French woman Anna Guérin. In 1921, The Royal British Legion formed and ordered 9 million of these poppies to be sold on 11 November that year. They sold out almost immediately and raised a £106,000 in the first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’. This money went towards helping veterans of WW1 in regards to employment and housing. The next year a factory was set up by Major George Howson who employed disabled ex-servicemen.

In Scotland, approximately 5 million poppies are sold every year by Poppyscotland.

We've been talking a lot about Remembrance Day this year. Little Feet A is more aware of it’s relevance to her life. She sees people in uniform everyday and it is about remembering people in uniform. She has been really interested in it, what it means and why we wear them. She has been desperate for her own poppy and is super proud of wearing it.

I wanted to write a piece about some of the conversations that have been going on in our house over the last month. I am aware I have shared a lot on social media, but not on here so let me open a window into our The Rainbow Tree home life.

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In September, Daddy Big Feet was away for a 'long work' (3 weeks), before the epic of 5 month deployment. Little Feet and I had the following conversation:

Little Feet A turned to me and asked 'Superheroes only come when baddies need to be stopped right?' I replied, 'Sure, yes I guess that's right.' I paused and the next words that came out of my mouth surprised me. I hadn't rehearsed them in my head previously or ever connected the two.
I replied, 'but you realise that's why Daddy is away so much right?' She looked at me quizzically and waited for me to continue. 'Daddy is a superhero. When he goes away it's because he is helping all the other superheroes to stop the bad guys. His uniform is his superhero costume and his cape... well his cape is invisible.' Her jaw dropped as she pondered this for a moment and then thoughtfully responded, 'I'm going to ask Daddy more about this when we next talk'.

I know this conversation really struck a chord with her because she has talked about it lots since. In another Instagram post this week I shared a drawing she had made at school of poppies in a field. They have obviously been talking about it in class a bit. When she showed me it I said, ' Wow that's beautiful. Can you tell me about them, can you remember what they mean?' She said, 'yes Mummy, they are there so we can remember them.' 'Remember who *Little Feet A?' 'Remember all the superheroes that came before us and kept us safe from the baddies'.

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Yesterday she asked me, 'Are you a superhero Mummy?' I said 'No, I'm not.' She replied, 'Can Mummies not be superheroes?' I said, 'Of course they can! There are LOTS of superhero Mummies being superheroes right now.' She paused and thought about it. 'Can I be one now?' I replied, ‘You've got to train to be one. When you are big you can be one if you like.' She said, ‘I want to be a superhero just like Daddy.’ I smiled, 'I know Daddy will be super proud of whatever you do, but I know he would definitely love that.'

Talking to our Little Feet about Remembrance Day is tricky. For those who may say it's celebrating war this is untrue and in my opinion frankly disrespecting the lives that never made it back, the ones who made it back but were forever scarred in body and mind. The young soldiers, airmen and sailors who were basically still teenagers, the ones who made it back but had to grow up too fast and were forever changed in their view of the world.

I know that for me personally I want to protect my children from the world for as long as I can. They don't need to know about the specifics, the devastating and life altering numbers that died. They don’t need to know about the conditions they lived in or the weapons that were used. What they do need to know is that thousands of people died and worked tirelessly to look after the people at home. The ones who worked tirelessly to keep us safe, to allow us to live the lives we live right now and not only that, but to realise there are still superheroes that work tirelessly to continue to keep us safe.

I chose in a blink of an eye to compare these brave men and women as superheroes. Little Feet A is 4 years old. She can relate to superheroes. She plays superheroes and ninjas, princesses and knights. These are things she can relate to and sometimes it’s easier to explain in those terms.

Really at the end of the day, to us all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers, everyone that fought in any capacity and died for us or lived and suffered, they were all superheroes. They had a courage that still teaches us to this day to stand up for what we believe in. To be scared and still do? That, that is true courage. For that, they will always be remembered. For that we should always teach of the sacrifice and the freedom it has given us today.

We are a forces family, 3 weeks and a day into our 5 month deployment journey. One we are choosing to share with the everyone. One we hope to shed a little light on the myths of military life, the truths, the highs and the lows. The little things that help us get through these long periods of separation and the days that we want to highlight that are important to those who have had relatives in the military in the past and have them in the military today. For many it is a calling, but back then it was a necessity to fight for our freedom and many felt like their duty to do their part whether that was in the factories or on the front line or whether they didn’t have a choice.

Photo by  Stijn Swinnen  on  Unsplash

This year is is the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. So from us to the generation who fought in that horrifying war, we want to say thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. Though a hundred years have past know we still remember you, know your sacrifice still means something, know we are still teaching our children, know we are still wearing poppies and that in our household you are known as superheroes. Past superheroes and present superheroes that continue to inspire the next generation. Know that my 4 year old daughter wants to have courage like you, wants to be brave like you and wants to be just like all those superheroes still holding the flame for you today.