Read, Walk, Sit: Keeping Kids Emotionally Centered During Challenging Times

{Previously published in the July issue of StoryMonsters Magazine}

We truly are in extraordinary times.

Coronavirus. Police brutality. Riots. Protests. Great political divide.

Then, there’s massive unemployment. Stock Market woes. Quarantine. No school now and possibly no school in the fall. No friends. No travel. No events. Killer bees…need I go on? These are the fears that affected my children all in a matter of four months, a mere one-quarter of a year.

We will get through this just as we have so many other things sponsored by life.  As an adult write this mantra on a sticky note and place by your bed. Make sure it is the last thing you see every night and the first thing you see every morning.

Adults have coping mechanisms and habits that are often second-nature. But what about our kids, our students, and our littlest neighbors?  Littles haven’t been on this earth long enough to have a frame of reference on “getting through things” nor do they have the habits of coping.

As a long-time family therapist, I am asked often how parents, grandparents, and caregivers make sure that their children are centered and healthy in such a chaotic time. My advice is always to begin putting these three simple ideas into regular practice.

Keeping Kids Emotionally Centered During Challenging Times


Reading with your children is one of the most powerful things you can do. Read the words out loud. Talk about the illustrations or the cover. Incorporate these themes into your real world. Ask your child what they would do if they were that character or had a friend like that. Books are important, but also show your children how you find real and concrete answers to questions.

My book This Is the Earth is an excellent example and also has some relevant discussion questions in the back of the book that parents can use as conversation starters for their kids.

Walkthrough the steps you take to formulate an opinion. It is important for kids to see that you do not just settle on one source for your facts, but that you take a more diverse approach to gather your information and then use that information to keep yourself and your family safe. Show them in real-time how you know with certainty that you do not have to be afraid of minnows. It’s a great story and you can view it here.

messages of hope


Children do not like to sit and talk. It is not natural for them. Take a walk. It does not have to be long or strenuous. You do not have to drive to a park. It is about spending that time together. Leave your phone in your pocket on do not disturb. Talk to your child about the things you see on your walk. This is when children will feel most free to ask you questions.

It is also good to leave the house for all kinds of reasons. The sun, the wind, the sounds of birds, and people waving hello all contribute to a child’s ongoing belief that the world is still spinning.


It is easy to find yourself at home with the TV on all day. Turn it off. We feel consumed with knowing what is going on every minute of the day when really, just turning on the news in intervals is plenty.

One of the most beautiful things to happen during the quarantine for my family is we rediscovered our front porch. Most evenings now, we turn off the television and sit on the porch. We have met neighbors we did not know we had! We have heard some of the most inspiring stories of courage and hope just from this simple act of sitting on the porch and the people who stopped to chat. This has made us stronger as a family and as a community.

As a country, we have some serious things we need to talk about and work on. We do need to discuss as a family and as a community what is happening to race relations in America…and today is a perfect day to begin.

Our friends at StoryMonsters Magazine also have a special deal right now on a yearly subscription to their online monthly magazine. StoryMonsters is an excellent literary resource for teachers, librarians, and parents and new subscribers can enjoy a YEARS worth of this amazing publication for FREE.

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Keeping Kids Emotionally Centered During Challenging Times

One More Thing!

I’m so honored to have been invited to speak via Zoom at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, IN!

Carnegie Center for Art and History

Carnegie is dedicated to addressing and creating social justice programming for more than a decade through its Underground Railroad exhibition and associated programs.

On June 29th, they have invited to act as a resource for families to talk about race, appreciating differences, representation, and cultivating understanding.

I will also be reading  This is the Earth and providing some conversation starters for families. Visit the Carnegie Center’s website for more details and to bookmark the Zoom link. Hope to see you there!


About Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place. All 16 of Cummings’ diverse picture, poetry, and workbooks for kids reflect her professional knowledge and love of life. Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all. Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
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