By: Kati Berlin, OTR/L
In occupational therapy and speech therapy we frequently use social stories to communicate social expectations to our kids. Over time, I’ve gathered quite a few books that I use regularly. “Grumpy Monkey,” by Suzanne Lang, is one of my recent favorites. Jim Panzee is having a grumpy day and all of his friends can tell, based on the body cues he uses. He’s hunched, his eyebrows are bunched, and he has a frown. Jim tries to fake being happy but he is unsuccessful. So his friends suggest many different ways to cheer him up, including swinging, singing, taking a walk, sitting in the sun, and dancing, to name a few. Ultimately, Jim still feels grumpy and needs to take a break from everyone. One of his friends comes to sit with him and he finds comfort in companionship, making him feel a little bit better.
“Grumpy Monkey” has so much to offer when talking about emotions, friendship, and self-regulation strategies. If you are trying to help your child to identify emotions in others it can be helpful to describe their body cues. What facial expression are they making? What is their body doing? Do they look like they have a lot of energy? Why do you think they feel like that?
The book also gives a lot of great ideas for movement or sensory strategies for taking a break and trying to improve your mood. It’s helpful to ask which ideas your child might be interested in. Do they know if a specific activity will increase or decrease their energy level?
Ultimately, the book communicates that emotions are normal. Sometimes kids want to deny that they are feeling grumpy or mad because they think that they shouldn’t. Sometimes they associate feeling angry with bad behavior. I think it’s important that we teach our kids that its okay to have days that are not perfect. Adults are certainly not always in a great mood! It can take time to stop feeling grumpy and start to feel better. In the end, the book focuses on the value of friendship and that sometimes it is enough to be present, listen, and provide others with support rather than try to fix them.