The best books on raising emotionally healthy children

Who am I?

Childhood is a special time but can also be wrought with severe challenges for some children. Children vary in emotional health and resilience, so we must provide extra support to those who struggle. I learned so much from the parents and therapists I interviewed for my book, about their experiences building resilience and emotional health in adopted children. I have a PhD in social work and have worked on federally funded child welfare and child trauma grants. Currently, I am a freelance writer and researcher and teach social policy and research courses at several graduate schools of social work, but my most demanding and rewarding job is being a mom!

I wrote...

Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four

By Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero, Gloria Russo Wassell, Victor Groza

Book cover of Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four

What is my book about?

Adopting Older Children addresses the most significant challenges surrounding older-child adoption (both domestically and internationally), including mental health, behavioral, and educational concerns. This thorough guide enumerates the issues an older adopted child faces and provides a comprehensive overview of problems and how adopting parents can successfully deal with them, including critical information about developmental issues; problems related to the adoptee's emerging sense of self, including sexual orientation and cultural identity; and other special needs that children may have.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups

Why did I love this book?

Erika Christakis offers a scientifically-grounded view of early childhood in a very approachable format for parents, teachers, childcare workers, and anyone who cares about young children. Christakis suggests we can make a few easy changes to nurture early learning and development and empower children through our relationships with the child.

The importance of playing and social interaction are critical aspects of child development and social emotional learning, but often children are expected to conform to adult-centered goals such as unrealistic expectations, adult schedules, and activities based on adult preferences for the child that might not align with their strengths and interests.

I think back and remember how creative and curious I was as a child, and as a parent I am reminded of the power of a child's mind to imagine and create. Children often also have wisdom beyond their years. As adults we need to not only see our children but truly listen to them. We can learn from them and they can also help us reconnect with our own playfulness and creativity.

By Erika Christakis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Importance of Being Little as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Christakis . . . expertly weaves academic research, personal experience and anecdotal evidence into her book . . . a bracing and convincing case that early education has reached a point of crisis . . . her book is a rare thing: a serious work of research that also happens to be well-written and personal . . . engaging and important.”
 --Washington Post

"What kids need from grown-ups (but aren't getting) impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flash cards, ditch the tired craft projects (yes, you, Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey) and exotic vocabulary lessons, and…

Book cover of The Everyday Parenting Toolkit: The Kazdin Method for Easy, Step-By-Step, Lasting Change for You and Your Child

Why did I love this book?

My coauthor Gloria Russo-Wassell introduced me to the wonderful world of Dr. Kazdin. I was skeptical at first about his all positive rewards, no negative punishment techniques, but the more I read, the more I realize he is right on the mark. When you associate positive rewards, praise, and feelings with specific children’s behaviors they will remember those events much more than the memories of being punished. We need to move past punishment as a cornerstone of parenting and discipline, and consider Dr. Kazdin’s ABC method.

By Alan E. Kazdin, Carlo Rotella,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Everyday Parenting Toolkit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alan Kazdin's The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child is the gold standard for research-backed advice on being a better parent for difficult children. But what about children who are not "defiant"? Now, in The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, Dr. Kazdin addresses how parents can deal with the routine challenges that come with raising a child. Dr. Kazdin's methods are based on the most up-to-date research and are implemented in real-world ways. From getting ready for school on time to expanding the palates of picky eaters to limiting computer time, no parenting book does a better job at helping parents…

Book cover of Raising Resilient Children : Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child

Why did I love this book?

This is one of the best books on raising resilient, emotionally healthy children. Generation Alpha is being bombarded by traumatic events which they learn about on YouTube, television, and from grownups around them talking about these events and the news. But there is a way to raise emotionally, healthy children even today and the key is teaching them resilience. There are so many great insights in this book but it’s practical and easy to digest. Our children have lost some of their resilience during the pandemic. It’s up to us, as adults in their lives – parents, teachers, counselors, and coaches – to re-instill a sense of security in our child’s lives but also the idea that once you’ve been through tough times other setbacks in life can seem easier to get through.

By Robert Brooks, Sam Goldstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Raising Resilient Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This title provides effective, proven advice for raising strong kids. 'A uniquely wise guide for parents. Brooks and Goldstein help mothers and fathers to focus on their child's strengths, not on his or her weaknesses. The result is a happier, more resilient child. This book could really make a difference in the life of a family' -Michael Thompson, author of "Raising Cain". 'Obviously written by talented therapists, Raising Resilient Children is such a well-written, easy-to-read, and helpful book for parents' - T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., author of "The Irreducible Needs of Children". In this seminal parenting work, renowned psychologists Robert…

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

By John Gottman, Joan Declaire,

Book cover of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

Why did I love this book?

This is an older book, based on many of Coleman’s principles from Emotional Intelligence, but it’s worthwhile. Raising emotionally intelligent children who can empathize with the struggles of others, want to help others and their peers, and can put things into perspective (in an age-appropriate way) is absolutely critical today. As we see basic kindness and decency fall by the wayside in so many places in society, we have to be extra vigilant to not let the next generation fall into the same self-centered, uncaring patterns that so many adults unfortunately exhibit. This book provides insights into how to nurture emotional intelligence in children, even those who seem to be on the wrong path and need some extra support in developing this critical characteristic.

By John Gottman, Joan Declaire,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is John Gottman’s groundbreaking guide to teaching children to understand and regulate their emotional world.

Intelligence That Comes from the Heart

Every parent knows the importance of equipping children with the intellectual skills they need to succeed in school and life. But children also need to master their emotions. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is a guide to teaching children to understand and regulate their emotional world. And as acclaimed psychologist and researcher John Gottman shows, once they master this important life skill, emotionally intelligent children will enjoy increased self-confidence, greater physical health, better performance…

Book cover of The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate

Why did I love this book?

Mindfulness has become a more popular concept in the realm of relaxation training, wellness, spirituality, and health, but many books are focused on adults. Children can also practice mindfulness which is having a reflective stance in daily life including appreciating experiences in the moment, being mindful of how you speak to people and of your relationships, incorporating a meditative element to daily life, and reflecting deeply on experiences and learning from those experiences. The author was involved in developing a mindfulness curriculum for school children which has been deemed quite effective in increasing focus and calm and decreasing discord and behavioral problems among children in the toughest classrooms. Check out this book, then try a book on mindful parenting!

By Susan Kaiser Greenland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mindful Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mindful Awareness is a widely used stress-reduction technique that works by enabling people to pay closer attention to what is happening within them - thoughts, feelings, emotions - so that they can better understand what is happening to them. In The Mindful Child, Susan Kaiser Greenland extends her internationally known program to children, showing how they can be taught to be kinder and more compassionate to themselves and others.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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