You may witness a multitude of emotions within any given day – unfettered giggles rising from deep in his belly, tender moments of quiet affection, loud protests of untamable anger, and tears of heartbreaking sadness.
Sure, all toddlers carry a strain of drama queen. At least half the time my son cries, his crocodile tears reveal false emotion. But other moments he vividly expresses a genuine depth of feeling, and I realize I have an especially sensitive soul on my hands.
Being a highly sensitive person myself, I assume an extra sense of duty in raising a child who can own, understand, express, and manage his emotions in a balanced, healthy manner. I yearn for him to be empowered and comfortable in his own skin, rather than mask or shame himself for what he feels internally.
This is no easy task and is certainly a complex question of nature, nurture, and culture from many psychological standpoints. But while he’s still a toddler, I find my job is simply to validate his emotions, help him gain perspective on the spectrum of what he feels, and provide healthy examples of expression.
For this quest, I’ve sought books that show sensitive, caring characters who express joy, fear, and sorrow without hesitation and who are not afraid to voice their needs, feelings, and affections to others.
In other words, rather than preach to my son about who he may or may not be and how he may or may not interact with others as he grows, I’ve tried to provide concrete examples of the broad range of healthy human emotions through books. Often the best candidates are stories about family and/or friendship, where characters are free to show their sadness, joy, fear, and love without judgment.
Some of my top picks are: