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Social Worker uses children’s books, podcasts to help people get in touch with their emotions

Book cover

Book cover

Social worker Cornelia Maude Spelman learned through her work that many people do no not know how to deal with emotions such as grief, sadness or anger.

“We might be taught we are not supposed to get angry and yell at people or we are not supposed to get angry at all,” said Spelman, who lives in Evanston, Ill. “We are not taught how to handle emotions but our emotions are very important.”

So Spelman, who has been writing since she was a child, decided to write a series of children’s books designed to teach young children how to process their emotions and express them in a constructive way.

The books,  which include “When I Feel Sad,” When I Feel Angry” and “When I Miss You,” have become wildly popular since the first was published in 1998. Her books, which feature cuddly animal characters s and colorful illustrations, have sold almost two million copies and been translated into 10 languages.

Spelman even met a child at a book signing who slept with one of her books at night. This surprised her because her books are about feelings and not cute fairies. She is hopeful the lessons she tries to impart in her books will reach not only children ebut the parents who read to them.

“I loved working with children,” said Spelman, 71, MSW, ACSW, who is a long-time member of the National Association of Social Workers. “Children can be helped so much with just a little bit of support, and their parents as well.”

For Spelman the importance of dealing with emotions is a very personal issue.

Cornelia Spelman

Cornelia Spelman

Spelman’s mother Elizabeth died from lung disease at the age of 63 after years of chain smoking. She may also have been an alcoholic and at one time used tranquilizers, Spelman said.

Spelman did research and learned Elizabeth’s father had died when she was seven years old and her mother throughout her life likely never deal with unresolved grief. This deeply affected her relationship with her daughter.

“My mother was depressed — I came to know that through training,” said Spelman, who addressed her relationship with her mother and family in the book “Missing: A Memoire.” “I grew up with a mother who was emotionally absent although I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Now Spelman is trying to target adults  through her “Diaries, Letters and Stories” podcast series. The podcast examines emotionally significant periods that people face at different phases of life, including the death of a parent and grandparenthood.

To do the podcast Spelman draws on her diaries as well as issues she has dealt with during her long social work career,  including adoption, divorce and remarriage.

Spelman  decided to do the podcast because she was distressed by the incivility and hateful rhetoric in the media during and after the presidential election and wanted an outlet where she could help people learn how to handle such emotions.

“It’s a little different from any other program I’ve known of,” Spelman said. “While the stories are personal they are also universal.”

Social workers help people overcome life’s challenges. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ Help Starts Here consumer website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Ms. Spelman for helping children and parents learn how to deal with their emotions. I have never read any of your books but I have been inspired to read them after reading this article about you. I am looking forward to using your books to help myself and the people I counsel to learn healthy ways to deal with emotions. Again, thank you!

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