Hugless Douglas is an endearing story of a bear who wakes up needing a hug. He sets off to find one, but each hug he gets is not quite right – Douglas is big and a bit awkward, so not many creatures are eager to hug him and he finds giving them to be trickier than he thought. Finally, he finds a hug that hits the spot and learns that the best hugs are from those who love you.
One of the things that adoptive parents and foster carers often talk to me about is that their children struggle to have cuddles with them that feel genuine or comfortable. They report their children hug too tightly, or seductively or aggressively. Sometimes they will hug but then complain of being hurt, or that their parent has ‘coffee breath’, and push them away. Some children seek affection only at the times they know their parent is busy and likely to put them off, and some avoid hugs altogether.
This beautiful book from Dr Seuss, uses colours and animals as a way to describe emotions. It won’t come as any surprise to you that here at The Moffles we like this very much! The vibrant pictures tell a story of different days being different colours and bringing all sorts of moods and feelings with them. One of the many lovely things about the simple but powerful text is how all the different emotions are treated equally – there are no ‘bad’ emotions, they are just what they are. Another lovely thing is how the story invites children to think about how they feel in their bodies when they have different emotions, or different coloured days. For many children who have experienced trauma, being able to connect with how they are feeling on a body level can be very difficult and even frightening. This is a book that approaches the subject in a gentle and fun way, inviting children to start to become curious about how they feel.
‘Why are you climbing the Christmas Tree?’ exclaimed Daddy Moffle, as his furry face and whiskers turned mint green with surprise, and the tips of his ears showed a rosy hint of crossness. Charlie Moffle climbed higher and his big, brown eyes peeped out from behind a sparkly bauble.
Charlie had come to live with new Daddy Moffle just a few weeks before, when the leaves on the trees were turning shades of red and gold and before the snow covered the floor of the forest. This was their first Christmas together and yesterday they had hung their painted acorns and holly berries on the walls. They piled the presents for their family and friends, higgledy-piggledy under the tree. Just two more Moffle sleeps and it would be Christmas Day.
Daddy Moffle bustled across the burrow, to rescue Charlie from the tree. As he did so, he noticed a loud rustling beneath his paws. Daddy looked around and gasped with louder surprise to see all of the wrapping paper from the presents ripped and scattered across the floor! ‘Oh, Charlie Moffle what did you do?’ sighed daddy sadly and his whiskers drooped as they turned pale blue.
‘It wasn’t me!’ yelled Charlie, his fluffy face turning bright red. The Christmas tree wobbled so much that the star perched on the top tumbled off and bounced under the sofa. Daddy Moffle took a deep breath and paused. Although the star had fallen, he could see little Charlie was holding on tightly to the tree trunk and he wasn’t going anywhere fast. Daddy Moffle noticed the disappointed feeling that was turning his big furry tummy a shade of berry blue. He had wanted their first Christmas together to be perfect and now it all seemed to be in tatters.
Then daddy took another deep breath and asked himself out loud why it might be that Charlie Moffle had needed to open all the presents and climb the Christmas tree? He wondered if Charlie might be thinking about all the Christmases before he came to live in this new burrow. As daddy spoke gently to himself, the Christmas tree stopped wobbling and became very still. Charlie’s ears were turning silver and busy listening.
‘Oh Charlie’ said Daddy Moffle, ‘I’ve been so busy making Christmas look the way I liked it when I was small that I haven’t thought enough about making it just right for you. I know Christmas has not always been a happy time for you and maybe it reminds you of sad or scary feelings? You haven’t had many presents in the past. Perhaps it is hard for you to believe that you are a special Moffle who deserves good things? No wonder you opened everybody else’s presents!
Daddy Moffle settled himself at the bottom of the tree. Slowly, Charlie climbed down and sat very close by. He reached out a tiny, yellow paw and daddy held it gently. ‘Let’s tidy up this mess’, said daddy ‘and then we can plan a Christmas that fits just right for you and me’.
This sweet book tells the story of a Mummy Rabbit, who brings together a group of disparate, little ones to create a special family. They look very different and have their own ways of doing things, but they all have a special song that they sing together. It is a story that celebrates difference, as well as everything that binds us together.
Part of therapy can be exploring what it means for an adopted or fostered child to have another child living with them in their family. So often parents and carers tell me about the challenges posed by the sibling rivalry and conflict between their children. How their children always seem to be on the lookout for whether they are being treated equally and how huge the meltdowns can be if things don’t seem fair!
Children who have had been hurt or neglected, by the very people who should have loved and protected them, can come to believe that they are bad, and that the world is a scary place. It can be too frightening for a child to think that a parent or a carer cannot look after them properly, and easier to believe that it is their own fault that their needs are not being met. These children often learn to lock their feelings away inside. They learn very early on that it is better to try to look after themselves and to feel nothing, than to open themselves up to the heartache of being let down again.
How sad that a survey of almost 60,000 children in the UK by the National Literacy Trust, Seeing Yourself in What You Read has found that a third of them do not see themselves in the books they read. It highlights that this lack of visibility is particularly true for children experiencing socioeconomic hardship; children from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds and also non-binary children and young people. I found myself wondering what percentage of adopted and looked after children might also report this to be the case.
The Moffles are books for children who are adopted or in the care system, that speak to them and their families and carers of their own lives. It is so important that all of our children feel seen and understood. Books that reflect themselves are such a powerful way of validating their experiences. They help them make sense of their thoughts and feelings and offer a way for us to connect with them and explore these things. In doing so we can help children to learn that their emotions are containable and do not have to be overwhelming. As Dan Seigel says, ‘name it to tame it’. Characters that a child can relate to not only help them understand what has happened in the past but provide hope and inspiration for what might and can be in the future. Remember, if you can see it you can be it!
Recently, Tippy Moffle’s Mirror received the most wonderful review from the children of an adoptive parent, who told me, “When we’d finished reading both of them said unprompted, ‘It’s about me’ … and then at the same time both said in response to the other, ‘No, it’s about me!’ I think this is praise indeed – they both connected with it and loved the Moffles”.
I hope that many more children get to connect with the Moffles and I’d love to hear from you about your experiences of sharing the stories with the children you love and care for.
Something Else is a book I bought many years ago, that is still one of my favourites and one that I often recommend to families and schools. It is not a ‘therapy’ book, but it is most certainly a helping book. It speaks to the importance of creating belonging and having friends. It is a useful addition to any set of resources for starting conversations about respecting diversity and being kind.
In therapeutic parenting sessions, many adoptive parents and carers over the years have told me about how difficult it is for their child to make or keep friends. Their children are the ‘social butterflies’ in the school playground, or the ones who attract trouble and are at the centre of playground dramas. Or the ones who are ignored or teased and left feeling upset. They speak of their sadness for their child never being invited for play dates or to birthday parties. Their children were hurt when they were little, before they came to them, and often did not have a loving adult in their lives to help them make sense of themselves and the world around them. Now the child is struggling to catch up and just doesn’t know yet how to feel comfortable in their own skin, or how to connect positively with other children.
The Moffle stories are for children who have lived through trauma & loss & for the adults who care for them. They explore what shapes children’s understanding of themselves & how loving relationships can bring trust & healing back into their lives.
These picture story books aim to appeal to adults as well as to their children. They are stories for families, that celebrates the process of healing that can occur when children begin to experience themselves the way that loving parents and carers experience them.
Many traumatised children find it hard to name their feelings or to recognise where they feel things in their bodies. Moffle books help to make connections for children between how they think & their emotions. Using colours in the Moffle’s fur to reflect their feelings is a novel, visual way to help children to think about these things, develop a language for their emotions & experiences & to generate ways to talk more easily about them with their parents & carers.
Little Tippy can’t wait to meet you and become part of your child’s world.
Click to the “The Author” to discover more about the purpose of these books.
Look at the “The Books” for fuller details of each book.
Visit the “About” to find out how these stories came about, meet the author, the cast, and to contact Mikenda.
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