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The Animals in my Brain - How can I help my child understand and manage their feelings?

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

(A book review!)

If you're looking for a child-friendly way to help your children understand about their brain and what happens when they get angry, why they hit/throw things, then look no further. Sarah Joseph's book 'The Animals in my Brain' is here to help.

The book uses 4 different animals to describe different parts of the brain and the roles they play:

Derik the Guard Dog (the Amygdala)- his role is to warn us of danger, and barks to wake up Anthony the Ape. He's always alert, but doesn't always know if something is a real danger, or just annoying.

Anthony the Ape - he is our fight, freeze or run response to danger.

Elsa the Elephant (Hippocampus) - she helps us learn and remember things.

The Wise old Owl (prefrontal cortex) is here to help us solve problems, focus on the important, and make sense of the world.

These parts of our brain are all useful to us, and work together. But when Derik wakes up Anthony, Elsa and the Wise old Owl are scared, and they run away. So we sometimes do mean things, because we can't think.

The book explains to children what happens in their body when Derik barks, and how taking deep breaths can help Derik stay calm so they can use the wisdom of Elsa and the Wise old Owl.

I love how Sarah has taken a complex idea and made it really child friendly. My 7 year old loves this book, and I think it would be suitable for children from toddlers upwards.

In Positive Parenting Workshops, we look at Dr Dan Siegel's 'Hand model of the brain', and creating a feeling better/calm-down space (a tool from Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott), which Sarah also refers to in her 'tips for parents' at the end of the book.

Sarah, a fellow Positive Discipline Educator, has some helpful free resources on her website to support you using the book, and there's even an author reading on there too!

The book is available in English, French and Spanish, so it's a great resource to share with family and friends.

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