May 22, 2024
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Q&A With Tzivy Reiter: ‘I Feel That Way and That’s Okay!’

Tzivy Reiter, LCSW, is the director of Children’s & National Trauma Services at Ohel and she authored this book dedicated to social emotional learning for young children.

Highlighting: “I Feel That Way and That’s Okay!: A Book About Feeling Emotions From the Tip of Your Toes to the Top of Your Head,” By Tzivy Reiter. Independently published. 2022. English. Paperback. 48 pages. ISBN-13: 979-8839607316.

What motivated you to write this book?

This book is as an outgrowth of “My Covid-19 Resilience Workbook” that I co-created with Naomi Baum for Ohel. The workbook was very popular and used by almost 10,000 students during the pandemic. Ohel is very active in the early childhood space, and at the time I was asked by many people if I had a similar tool that was appropriate for preschool children. The workbook was recommended for children ages 5-10 but was not appropriate for the under-5 preschool age group.

So, I met with the early childhood team at Ohel. We knew we wanted to create a social-emotional learning tool, and we thought about what format might make sense for young children. We couldn’t decide between a storybook or a coloring book. Both are developmentally appropriate for preschool-age children. In the end, we decided to do both! We produced the story book,
“I Feel That Way and That’s Okay!” And we also created companion coloring pages, which are available as free downloads on Ohel’s website, Ohelfamily.org/resources.

What is the book about?

“I Feel That Way and That’s Okay” is about a cast of animal characters who are guided by a caring parent figure who helps them to recognize emotions in their whole bodies, rather than just their faces. This book empowers children to put a name to what may often be confusing feelings—an important milestone along the way towards learning to regulate those feelings. The emotions children are taught to identify in the book are happy, sad, angry, worry and calm. Co-authored by Naomi Baum, it is beautifully illustrated by the talented Sharon Amlani, and uses rhythm and repetition to appeal to young children.

What is the theoretical foundation the book is based on?

This book is based on four cornerstones of healthy development: attachment, communication, interoception and co-regulation.

Attachment: In this book, the mother of the main character, Teddy, demonstrates the principles of behavior that lead to secure attachment. She doesn’t rescue Teddy and his friends from their feelings. She bears witness, she listens, she accepts and validates their feelings—both the so-called “good” and seemingly “bad” ones. She accompanies Teddy and his friends through their different emotions without denying them or trying to solve them away. Preschool children learn to recognize and identify their feelings and also learn that their feelings matter. They can feel sadness, worry and anger, and they can still be OK. They can experience a wide range of emotions, and also learn to cope with those emotions.

Communication: One of the important roles of parenting young children is the creation of an environment where emotions are honored and respected rather than ignored and dismissed. There should be space made for young children to experience all emotions. The teacher’s and parent’s roles are to bear witness to these emotions—to see, hear and name these emotions, creating similar language in the child, and finally, to accept these emotions. It sounds simple, but in fact, it is quite difficult. Our natural tendencies may lead us to say things like, “Don’t be angry!” when in fact it may be more useful to say, “I see you are feeling angry.” Allowing for a wide range of feelings, and communicating the message that, “You feel that way and that’s okay!” is a critical component of healthy social-emotional development in your children.

Interoception, sometimes called the “eighth sense,” refers to the awareness of the internal state of our bodies. How do I know how I am feeling the emotions I am experiencing? Learning to pay attention to what the various parts of the body are telling us is an important part of learning about emotions.

Co-regulation is the warm and responsive interactions of the adult that provides support and modeling to the young child, and is critical in the development of self-regulation. Co-regulation is regulating with the child, rather than expecting the child at this stage in their young lives to regulate all by themselves. One key way to teach self-regulation is by modeling. This means that the parent or teacher models regulated behavior and the child learns from wordless observation. Managing your own heart rate, slowing your voice, getting down to the child’s level to soothe and breathing deeply together are all effective ways to co-regulate. In “I Feel That Way and That’s Okay!” Teddy’s mother calmly navigates all manner of challenges and feelings, both for herself and for her charges. She demonstrates how adults can model self-regulation, which the observing child can then incorporate into his or her own repertoire of behaviors.

What makes this book different from other books that have already been written about emotions?

There are in fact many books out there about emotions in young children. We did not want to produce a book that had already been similarly written. We really wanted to add value by creating something that had new and innovative components. In “I Feel That Way and That’s Okay!” an emphasis is placed on how the different emotions are very specifically experienced, in not just the faces, but in the entire bodies of the characters. With each emotion, there is a page detailing where and what sensations children may experience in their bodies. So the book doesn’t only teach children about how to identify and label the emotion of anger. It actually teaches children how anger might manifest inside their bodies, i.e., red face, fast breathing, heart racing etc. This allows children to actually recognize the emotion inside their bodies, before they may get out of control. It is an important skill to teach them on the road to self-regulation.

What resources are available for parents, teachers or therapists using this book at home or at school?

We have developed a Teacher/Parent Guide for the book, so as to give teachers and parents practical information and activities on how to build upon the lessons in the book and develop skills in their young children. The parent/teacher’s guide is available on www.ohelfamily.org/resources.

The book is available on Amazon.

By Jewish Link Staff

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