Helping Children Cope with Frustrating Emotions: An Interview with Dr Melissa Boyd

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Emotions can be a tricky thing to handle. Even as adults, but more so if you’re a child that’s just trying to figure out how the world works. B is for Breathe: The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings by Dr Melissas Boyd  introduces children (and adults) to different type of emotions and ways to cope when that icky feeling takes hold of you. 

A bestseller here at The Children’s Bookstore, we spoke to Dr Melissa Boyd, who is a mother, an officer in the United States Army and Clinical Psychologist about the motivation behind writing this inspirational book, temper-tantrums and recognising depression in children.



1.B is for Breathe is a unique children’s book filled with coping skills that are suitable for children of all ages. What motivated you to write this book? 

I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book and as a mom of 3 children (ages 7,5, and 3) and clinical psychologist, I’ve learned it is so important that healthy coping skills are discussed and learned by children at an early age. B is for Breathe focuses on social emotional learning and provides examples of different ways children can express their feelings, cope with fussy and frustrating emotions and practice calm down strategies. As an African American mother, I was also motivated to create a book with characters of diverse ethnicities. Because of the diversity in B is for Breathe, many children can see themselves in the book while being introduced to various healthy ways to manage feelings.


2. Some of us struggle or may not feel the need speak to our children about feelings— they’re just being kids, let them learn how to deal with it themselves, she’s just being naughty, he just wants attention and so forth. After all, young children tend to throw tantrums, cry or make a fuss over the simplest thing, right? Is it necessary to discuss feelings with them and how can it help them (and us, parents) in the long run?  

It is very important to discuss emotions with children so that they are more aware of what strategies work for them when they become adults. Parents can make room for their children to express emotions and by helping and also help them to process their emotions by teaching them not to be afraid of their feelings. The overall hope is that B is for Breathe will inspire kids to discuss their feelings and practice calm down strategies. Whether it is deep breathing, muscle relaxation, art, or writing about emotions, it is important to encourage children to try out different calm down strategies and techniques in order to find their own special way of coping with emotions.


3. One of the great things about B for Breathe is that it is a wonderful book to help start important conversations with our children about their feelings and how to manage them. But how can we make the most out of these conversations with our young ones? 

Learning to identify and express feelings in a positive way helps kids develop the skills they need to manage them effectively. When discussing emotions with children, conversations can be most beneficial when adults help children to name their feelings by giving them a label. Whether it is happiness, sadness, worry, anger, or excitement, it is important that parents help children identify and talk about their own feelings. Kids need to be shown how to manage their feelings in positive and constructive ways and parents can help in this process by acknowledging a child’s feelings and encouraging them to express their feelings through words in addition to facial expressions, through their body, their behavior and play.


4.  We all have our bad days, children included— especially when they’re still learning to express themselves. It can be difficult to detect when something more serious is happening to our young ones. What are the big red flags that we, as parents should look out for? 

Kids experience difficult emotions just like adults. Whether its fussiness, frustration, anger, nervousness, embarrassment, sadness or excitement, sometime children don’t have positive ways of expressing what they are feeling inside. When this happens, children may communicate their feelings through behaviors and actions that are unhealthy such as having a tantrum, screaming, hitting, etc. Parents play an important part in helping kids understand their feelings and behaviors; therefore, its important that parents acknowledge maladaptive behaviors in addition to the emotions that are driving these behaviors and present healthier ways to express how they are feeling. 


5. Befrienders, which is a non-profit organization in Malaysia has reported that there is an increasing number of children, as young as 10 years old that are reaching out to them for help with depression. How can we create a positive environment for young children who are showing symptoms of mental health issues? 

There’s often a lot of mood swings and emotional episodes that comes with childhood and adolescence, and it can be hard to know when their behavior is a part of growing up, acting out, or  and when it’s more serious, such as a mental health condition. The first step towards helping a child with symptoms of depression is to learn how to recognize it. Some of the symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, inappropriate guilt, social isolation, withdrawal, low self-esteem, sleep and appetite concerns, academic changes, low energy, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide. To create a positive environment, parents can be supportive and gain their child’s trust by allowing them to talk about their problems and worries as they come up. A child building trust in their parents is developed when parents spend quality time with their child, encourage open and honest conversations, listen to what their child has to say, and validate their feelings. 


6. On a slightly lighter note, I understand that you’re a mother of 3. How do you cope with temper tantrums and meltdowns? 

With 3 young children, there are plenty of emotions in our home. We created a relaxation/calm down room that has music instruments and pictures of coping skills. If one of my kids is having a difficult time with emotions, I try to acknowledge how they are feeling and redirect them to relax and calm down before we discuss how they are feeling and what they can do with their emotions. I also share with them when I am frustrated and tell them what I am doing or plan to do to help my own emotions so that positive behaviors are being modeled for them.


B is for Breathe Children's Book

B is for Breathe: The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings is back in store at The Children’s Bookstore.

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