June 20, 2024
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‘Menucha for Menucha’: Helping Children Navigate Intense Feelings

Highlighting: “Menucha for Menucha” by Yael Walfish; ISBN: 9781614655671; February 2022; 32 pages; Hardcover.

“Menucha for Menucha,” written by Yael Walfish, LCSW, and published this past January, stars a little girl, Menucha, as she and her family struggle to navigate her challenges with an explosive temper. Menucha—meaning “inner peace”—is followed around by a large storm cloud that appears when she does not get her way. Although the people in her life attempt to chase the cloud away, it continues to follow her, undeterred, as her parents grow desperate trying fruitless methods to stop the tantrums. Eventually, they use the Nurtured Heart Approach, which allows Menucha to “reset” herself and calm down, eventually channeling her “intensity” into creative and constructive activities.

Walfish, a therapist in a private practice, recognized the need for children to participate in their own emotional development and sought a medium they could use to understand themselves better. Although Walfish hadn’t ever intended to write a children’s book, she explained that the idea for the story “just came to me,” as it described the situation of many families she had worked with. Following encouragement from her husband, “Menucha for Menucha” was eventually published by Menucha Publishers. “I’m very grateful to Menucha Publishers,” Walfish said. “They did a great job.”

Walfish works with her husband, Naftoli to train individuals, families, therapists, teachers and organizations—both in the U.S. and abroad—in the Nurtured Heart Approach, a powerful and effective method that guides children (and also adults) to “use their intensity in positive and healthy ways,” according to a page at the back of “Menucha for Menucha.” Although she usually works with adults, Walfish wanted to work with children to help them better verbalize their emotions. “They don’t really understand that they have this storm cloud,” she explained. “They don’t even know what to do with their feelings.” Thus, the children feel “stuck” and unable to communicate, reverting to temper tantrums to express themselves. “So I thought, Oh, could we possibly explain this in such a simplistic way that … a child … could understand?”

The author said that the book has a therapeutic benefit, often for the child and parents alike, as well as siblings and even other children. “I’ve had kids tell their parents, ‘Let me show you my storm cloud,’ and they act out how they get really angry,” Walfish explained, describing how parents will write to her about how they are interacting differently with their children. “I think it’s geared to the child, but the parents find they learn in the process.”

Although Walfish originally assumed the book would be marketed exclusively to the Orthodox Jewish community, after posting her book on LinkedIn, people from all over the place—such as England, Canada and Hawaii—began buying it. “Jews and non-Jews have been buying it … I don’t think there’s a book like that out there … between the illustrations and the concept, I think we’re reaching children.”

Walfish has received voice notes from moms telling her that their child loves “Menucha” and no longer feels alone. One mom living in South Africa had her mother bring her a copy. “Her son has ADHD and Asperger’s, and [his mother] told me that [her son] now feels less alone in his challenges,” said Walfish, who explained that “Menucha” does not represent one particular child, but is rather an amalgamation of the struggle of almost each family she meets and can also be helpful for teens and adults.

Hearing these success stories has ignited a passion in Walfish to offer children tools in a way that can be both innocuous and preventative, and she is now working on a second children’s book, this one addressing bullying. “So many children have the same challenges, and if we could share them without the issues escalating, without even having to intervene specifically therapeutically, can we make a difference in children’s lives?” Walfish is hoping to use the new book to give children the skills to respond to bullying by building the child’s inner strength without feeding into the bully’s behavior.

“There are great parents who try everything they can, and sometimes the school tries everything it can, and sometimes we’re misdirecting the child and the energy and actually building behaviors we don’t want to see in them,” she explained. “My passion is helping children and families find their inner peace.”

Walfish runs a six-week online workshop for parents, teachers and educators on the Nurtured Heart Approach. She can be reached through CenterForGreatness.com, and “Menucha for Menucha” can be bought at https://tinyurl.com/53dd6c8a.

By Brooke Schwartz

 

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