Stories Help Children Cope with Stress and Grief
The pain of loss can be hard for anyone to grasp, particularly young children.
Books and stories are powerful ways to help children understand and process such an abstract concept as death and grieving in an age-appropriate way.
This year in particular, many children have lost a loved one or family member.
French Toast Sundays, an Apples & Honey Press book by Gloria Spielman, can be used to jumpstart a conversation with children who may be experiencing the overwhelming emotions of losing someone they know.
Mina is inconsolable when her beloved grandmother dies, and as people gather in her home to observe Jewish mourning rituals (explained in a brief afterword), she retreats to her favorite branch in the big oak tree next to her home and refuses to come down. But as she overhears family and friends telling stories about Grandma, she realizes that there are wonderful revelations in store for everyone: Grandma's own children never knew their mother rode a motorcycle all the way to Brighton Beach, and Mina finally learns why Grandma always turned down her invitations to join her on the tree branch. Soon, Mina returns to the fold to share her own Grandma secret her mysterious recipe for the perfect French toast they cooked together every Sunday morning.
"A source of gentle comfort. - Jewish Book Council
"Strikes a mood of reassuring calm and contemplation." - Publisher's Weekly
Here are some suggestions for using the book. Read straight through the story with children, while looking at and discussing the illustrations. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their feelings, being sure to listen and offer your full attention. Prompt children to process the experience by asking questions about the story and about their own family experiences.
- 1. Does your family have any special traditions or foods that you do or make every week/month/year?
- 2. Why do you think Mina’s grandma didn't want to climb the tree?
- 3. Why is everyone sad in this story? What happened to make this Sunday different?
- 4. Why does Mina run away to her favorite branch?
- 5. Why do you think some people are laughing, during shiva on Monday? Why doesn't Mina laugh?
- 6. Mom and Uncle Al are sad that they don’t know their mom's secret French toast recipe. How do you think Mina feels when she makes French toast for them?
- 7. Spending time with family and friends, talking about Grandma, gradually helps Mina and her family feel a little better. What helps you feel better when you’re feeling sad?
- 8. Mina has a special memory of sharing Sundays with her grandma. What special memories do you have of your special person? How does it make you feel when you think of that memory?
An excellent resource for helping children deal with grief, by the Child Mind Institute, is available here.
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