In My Heart

By Jo Witek

In My Heart, oozes colour & tactile appeal. It is an exploration of all sorts of emotions, each of which is celebrated with big, playful pictures. The die-cut heart design is delightful & it is hard to resist turning the pages to follow how the heart changes, as it runs through the book. There is a lyrical use of similes & sensory words that cleverly connect emotions with physical feelings in the body, in a beautiful yet simple way. We hear how some feelings make us as light as a balloon & others as heavy as an elephant. Importantly, we are reminded that feelings come & go & that like springtime after winter, the sun comes out again. It ends with an invitation to consider our own emotions.

The Moffles love the connection of colours with emotions. Also, the honouring of all emotions, thoughts & feelings as being important & of equal value. I often explore with parents & carers in therapy, how we can support their child to learn that all thoughts & feelings are fine, even if we have to set limits to behaviour.

 Within every family, children learn early on what it is ok & not ok to talk about. They learn this from the example set by the adults, as well as the responses they get when they try to express themselves. All families have emotions that are easier & harder to share & patterns of communication that are comfortable to them as a family unit. These patterns are often unconscious, until a family is invited to focus on them & to reflect on what has influenced their development.

Children who have lived with neglect & trauma in their early lives have often missed out on good enough support to make sense of their thoughts & feelings. To learn the words for how they are feeling & to have the opportunity to talk about them. Emotional articulacy is not innate, it is a skill that needs to be practiced, within caring relationships. If a child finds that expressing their feelings provokes fear, anger, ridicule or rejection from a parent or carer, then this can lead to them shutting down emotionally, or internalising that there are ‘good’ & ‘bad’ feelings. They may avoid or deny the ‘bad’ feelings to keep themself safe.

Moving into an adoptive or foster family, a child has to learn a new pattern of family communication. They may be being encouraged to notice their emotions & how they are feeling in their bodies for the first time. It can take time for this to be comfortable or easy to do. Initially, it can help if the adults around the child provide them with the vocabulary & the ideas about feelings to ‘try on for size’.  In My Heart can be a wonderful story to assist in this process. Sharing it together can help little hearts feel validated & grow hopeful, ‘like a plant reaching towards the sky’.

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