Emotional regulation wasn’t really something people spoke about when we were kids. Instead, when our emotions became too overwhelming, we may have been labeled ill-disciplined, downright naughty, or disrespectful. There was a good chance we’d get a spanking or be sent to our rooms to calm down.
The problem with these approaches was that we never had the tools to help us calm down and regulate our feelings. Over the years, the importance of co-regulation (helping our kids to regulate their emotions) and self-regulation (the ability of a child to regulate their own emotions) has been acknowledged, and we as parents are now fortunate to have a wealth of information and guidance at our disposal. For this reason, I decided to author a series of books on emotional regulation for kids (more on that below).
Books are a great way to begin conversations about feelings and emotional regulation. I’ve compiled a list of 9 books about emotions and emotional regulation that can provide you with a starting point for discussions.
Some of the books target you as the parent, while others are meant for you to read together with your child or for older kids to read on their own. It’s important for children to have access to books about feelings and emotional regulation. When they read these books with their parents or alone, children discover that their emotions are normal and that many others experience the same feelings.
Here’s my recommended list of children’s books about emotional regulation:
Preschoolers often need some help regulating their feelings. You might have to assist your child by co-regulating their emotions with them. This is a good age to introduce the different feelings to your child and talk about how to recognize these feelings. This is the first step to successful emotional regulation.
My body sends a signal: Helping kids recognize emotions and express feelings
My body sends a signal, written by Natalia Maguire and Illustrated by Anastasia Zababashkina, uses colorful illustrations, clear words, and familiar situations to teach young kids about their emotions. This best-seller includes a relatable story, activities and coloring pages, instructions for adults, and related short stories that encourage empathy.
The choices I make
The Choices I Make is a children’s book about making good choices and managing emotions. Written by Michael Gordon for children aged 3-5, it teaches kids all about making the right choices, learning to tolerate frustration, and adapting to change. This book is one in a series of 15 that aim to teach kids to self-regulate and practice kindness, empathy, and compassion.
The book has colorful illustrations and a fun rhyme, and it’s also short enough to ensure that kids don’t lose focus. The print version of the story includes coloring pages, which makes it perfect for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
For younger readers (ages 4-8)
Children between the ages of 4 and 8 will enjoy books where they can read along and follow the story. Storytime provides children with an opportunity to connect with you, and this is a soothing and relaxing time for many kids. It’s a good time for you to introduce new ideas, such as how to recognize feelings and what to do when these feelings emerge.
The feelings activity book for children: 50 activities to identify, understand, and manage your feelings
In The Feelings Activity Book for Children, award-winning teacher Diane Romo encourages kids to explore their emotions through engaging activities. This colorfully illustrated book provides them with a tool to investigate their feelings without judgment. It offers kids examples of real-life situations, giving them a chance to think about how they might feel or react.
Being an activity book, it has a variety of engaging things to do, among them coloring, drawing, and puzzle-solving. The final section provides tips for caregivers so that they can be their child’s “emotional coach” and help them as they learn to self-regulate.
The big feelings: Series for kids
In the Big feelings series, author and counselor Lesley Scott and illustrator Rachel Rossouw introduce the primary emotions of anxiety (fear), sadness, happiness, and anger to kids ages 4-8. In each book, the character talks to the reader about the “Big Feeling” and introduces ways to manage and regulate it.
The characters in the book (Cai, Tiny, Pip, and Huli) aim to normalize overwhelming emotions, encouraging children to seek help when they can’t cope alone and providing them with tools to regulate their feelings. The books intentionally use non-gendered characters to ensure that both boys and girls can relate and engage with the content.
Each book includes a “How Am I Feeling” page, which is perfect for younger and non-verbal readers, as well as a guide to help parents identify and navigate their children’s emotional landscape.
For older kids (7 and above)
Older children will be able to read books about emotions alone if they’re competent and confident readers. It’s still important to be aware of the content of the book so that you can chat to your kids about what they have read.
The kids’ guide to staying awesome and in control: Simple stuff to help children regulate their emotions and senses
The kids’ guide to staying awesome and in control by Lauren Brukner is a practical guide in which kids ages 7-14 can find different strategies and tools to help them regulate their moods and senses.
The book is divided into 2 parts, with Part 1 being written for kids and Part 2 for parents and teachers. In Part 2, the adult readers can also find a number of resources they can use to help their children identify and manage feelings, as well as charts and checklists to track the children’s progress.
Me and My Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves
Vanessa Green, a professional school counselor and former 2nd-grade teacher, wrote Me and my Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves with the aim to empower kids by teaching them how to deal with their emotions and express themselves in a healthy way.
The book introduces the 6 big emotions and provides interactive activities, giving kids a chance to engage as they learn.
Activities include exercises, quizzes, and tools to help children express themselves and love themselves. The book, which includes a short letter to parents, is written for kids aged 7-10.
Best book to teach kids self-control and mindfulness
Breathe like a bear: 30 mindful moments for kids to feel calm and focused anytime, anywhere
Based on Kira Willey’s Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning CD, Breathe like a bear is a collection of mindfulness exercises designed to teach kids ages 4-8 techniques to regulate their bodies and feelings. By learning to become aware of their bodies through their breathing, children are empowered to move into this self-aware state at any time.
Kids who practice mindfulness techniques such as the ones in this book are better at regulating their emotions and have better social skills and higher self-esteem. Mindfulness exercises also increase focus and decrease anxiety and depression.
Although the book is written and illustrated with younger children in mind, the techniques can be used by kids and adults of all ages to find calm, gain focus, and feel energized.
How to be a superhero called self-control!: Super powers to help younger children to regulate their emotions and senses
This Mom’s Choice Award Gold Seal Winner is written by Lauren Brukner and introduces Self-Control—a superhero who teaches young children his super powers of self-control.
How to be a superhero Ccalled self-control! teaches children ages 4-7 how to calm themselves using a range of methods and techniques, including deep breathing and finding a peaceful place.
This illustrated book also includes support resources for adults, among them power charts, reinforcers, and reminder tools to make sure that parents and teachers can support children in practicing the strategies learned.
Psychology book on controlling emotions
Self-regulation and active problem solving: Activities to teach kids how to generalize learned skills to real-life situations
The book is written by Dr. Briana Makofske, a licensed school psychologist with extensive experience in working with neurodivergent children. It’s uniquely designed to address challenges for such children—including kids with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and other mood disorders—teaching them to apply self-regulation and problem-solving skills they have learned in real-life scenarios.
The activities in the book help children to follow directions, problem-solve, advocate for themselves, think flexibly, and manage their emotions.
Unlike most books, the activities in Self-regulation and active problem solving encourage children to implement their new skills while they are dysregulated, frustrated, or anxious. While written with the special service provider in mind, it can be a useful resource to parents of both neurodivergent and neurotypical children.
To wrap up
The best books about regulating emotions are the ones that resonate with your child. They should talk about all feelings in a positive way, emphasizing that both positive and negative feelings are normal, and that everyone experiences them. These books should provide kids with suggestions for managing their own emotions and encourage them to seek help if they become overwhelmed.