by Elizabeth Crary, M.S.
We all get angry sometimes. We all get anxious or frustrated, too. But what do we do about these feelings?
Some of us cope well—and the rest of us need Elizabeth Crary's new Self-Calming Cards.
Based on Crary's more than 25 years as a parent educator, this set of practical cards (from Parenting Press, ISBN 978-1-884734-67-0, $12.95, 800-992-6657, ParentingPress.com) provides an introduction to emotional literacy. It helps both adults and children understand the importance of identifying and acknowledging emotions and of learning how to soothe yourself.
Like all of Crary's publications, the Self-Calming Cards provide step-by-step help in the form of coping and problem-solving tools, games and exercises parents and teachers can use—before disaster strikes—to help children manage their feelings.
The cards describe six different ways to cope: with physical, auditory, visual, creative, self-nurturing and humorous activities. In each of the six different groups, there are four cards with charming illustrations of kids demonstrating suggested coping techniques. For example, the creative activities include making something such as a craft, writing a letter, drawing a picture and baking bread.
Even better, the card deck includes games that teach basic concepts. "Stop the Story" introduces the concept that kids can make choices. "Imagine That" teaches kids how to practice skills through pretend situations. The more advanced "Take Three" asks kids to observe how different activities affect their feelings.
Not every self-calming strategy will work in every situation.
"The key, however, is that we all have choices," points out Crary.
This nonjudgmental approach is the hallmark of a Parenting Press book: Crary doesn't tell anyone—child or adult—how to solve a problem. Nor does she let the Press's other authors dictate how issues should be resolved.
"Our books are respectful," Crary says. "Our goal is to help you identify what you want rather than telling you what you should do."
Her mission has been a success: Parenting Press, Inc. has published more than 80 children's and child-guidance books since its founding in 1979. In total, the Press has 2 million copies of its books in print. Consistently praised for offering a sense of perspective, no-nonsense analysis and practical suggestions that work in real life, Parenting Press books are so carefully written and field-tested that they are standbys on bookstore shelves. "Modern classics," Crary calls them, "books you can go back to again and again."
Best-selling books seem like a long way from food poisoning, which is where Crary started her career. A home economics graduate, she earned a master's degree in nutrition and biochemistry before beginning work for the Food Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. But almost as soon as she finished school, she was leading Girl Scout troops—and researching parenting so she was better prepared for her groups of pre-teen girls.
After her son was born in 1971, Crary found that her traditional home economics training—and the parenting classes she'd been taking—helped with her own child development questions. Conversations with other new parents resulted in her leading parenting classes and support groups. In 1976, the handouts she created for parenting classes became the basis for a book. Eager to try out its concepts, she field-tested the draft through a community college class. By 1979, Without Spanking or Spoiling was ready for publication. Unwilling to give up control of the book design and aware that she would be responsible for marketing the book, regardless of who published it, Crary chose to self-publish her guide. It was an rapid success; less than a year later, every one of the 5,000 copies was gone.
Today Crary still teaches parenting education. She's a popular speaker at professional conferences and on television and radio talk shows. Without Spanking or Spoiling, revised and expanded a few years ago, has 171,000 copies in print. And the woman who claims she "hates" to write has produced dozens of new books and card decks. Each one, as you can imagine, is packed with problem-solving suggestions.
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