Inside: Discover stories and Bible verses to help your kids navigate new relationships and face the unknown with grace and love this school year or anytime.
What’s your new?
Whether it’s back-to-school, a family move, or trying a new food or activity, facing the unknown is part of life, especially in childhood. No matter the situation, we want to help our kids face the unknown with grace for themselves and love for others.
Stories can help KIDS FACE THE UNKNOWN
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It’s not easy though, right? When anticipating new experiences, even those designed to be pleasant, complex feelings can surface for both parents and kids.
In times like these, I find it helpful to lean into God’s gift of stories. Whether a Bible narrative, a parable Jesus told, or a picture book, stories have a way of opening our hearts more easily than an adage or explanation–and they stick with us longer, too!
In an earlier post, Karis shared the picture book Pog and some great tips about how to approach new encounters with compassion. This week, we’ll look at four more picture books that can help our kids face the unknown with grace and grow in love and respect for others.
Even though these books don’t hold simple plug-and-play answers about going back to school or building new friendships, the timeless themes of courage and kindness can help your family start the school year or face any “unknown” with more peace and connection. Two books focus on the kind of courage we need in friendship, and two are about the wonderful discoveries we can make when trying something new.
books TO Help Kids face the unknowns of friendship
The Day You Begin
“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin to share your stories.”
We pointed to this lovely book in our recent post: 17 Diverse Books We Love. It acknowledges how hard it can be when we feel like outsiders. And when kids are facing new situations, this is often one of their biggest worries.
The book invites readers to walk in the shoes of:
- A girl who gets sideways looks about her lunch
- A boy who gets giggles over his accent, and
- Our main character Angelina who desperately wants to share about a summer trip like all her classmates (except she didn’t take one).
We can pull two important themes from this book to help kids face the unknown: empathy and bravery.
Empathic and compassionate responses
Empathy is feeling what others feel, seeing from their perspective, and letting them know they are not alone. It is an important way of connecting and an essential component of true compassion (which includes a desire to do something to alleviate another’s suffering).
Ask kids to imagine being one of the characters in the book. Then pose a few questions to spark conversation:
- How do you think the child in the book feels?
- How can you help others to feel at ease when you sense they may be worried or sad?
Bible Verse Pairing
The following verses go well with this discussion because they remind us that empathy and compassion start with God, and he invites us to be part of the way he brings comfort to others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV
Bravery and being yourself
The Day You Begin also expresses how beautiful it can be when we share our stories, when we find connections in what is similar and celebrate what is different. For example, I love how Angelina ends up sharing about her summer in a really positive way, and I think you will too–especially if you’re a book lover.
As you talk about this with your family, you can ask:
- How can you celebrate the ways we are different from others?
- What have you learned from someone who is different from you?
- Have you ever thought someone was very different from you, but then realized you had things in common?
- Do you ever worry about being left out or being teased for the ways you are different from others? What helps you feel better?
Bible Verse Pairing
I love two verses for this discussion on facing the unknowns of friendship with confidence:
- First, this one–because God made us each special, and we are always on His mind.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.”Psalm 139:13-18
- And then, this one–because, sadly, sometimes things don’t go well when we show up and share our stories, but we can still find contentment, knowing God is always with us:
“…be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”Hebrews 13:5
For more, go to Jacqueline’s website to read the poem that inspired the book.
The Invisible Boy
Continuing with our themes of empathy, compassion, bravery, and being our true selves, we have The Invisible Boy. It is chock full of little moments that capture the complexities of childhood relationships and demonstrate the power of seeing others.
Brian is treated as if he is invisible. Justin is made fun of for being different. Each of them display bravery and compassion at different times, just when the other needs it most.
Bible Verse Pairing
This insightful, delightful book pairs well with Philippians 2:3-4 because it reminds us to look out for others.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”Philippians 2:3-4
The verses that follow, beautifully described how Jesus, though He is God, humbled himself and gave up everything for us.
A lot of great discussion can come from noticing the illustrator’s use of color in the book. I also love the questions provided at the back of the book. My two favorites are:
- Which do you think is worse–being laughed at or feeling invisible?
- How many kids did it take in this story to help Brian begin to feel less invisible? (Just one!)
Let’s Get Real, Though
Curling up on the couch with my kids and discussing friendship and compassion is one thing. But when they walk through the front door out into the big wide world, when I am not by their side, how does this play out? As parents, how can we help kids face the unknowns of friendship in a complex world?
I believe the pursuit of these answers is worth it, especially now when it seems people need compassion more than ever.
As a starting place, taking intentional time to reflect can go a long way in cultivating empathy and preparing kids for new situations. Follow that up with a little role play, and you have a powerful combination to help kids face the unknown with confidence and love.
Showing compassion and speaking up for others both start with noticing. To take the lessons of Invisible Boy one step further, you could start with these questions:
- Who might feel invisible?
- Which classmates are getting snickers or sideways glances from others?
- Who seems to need some extra care?
After we notice what is going on around us, we can train our thoughts to be for others. We can ask:
- What brings them joy?
- When do they tend to get sad or mad?
- What are their superpowers? (Remind kids superpowers might not be flamboyant, like flying.) In other words, what do they do well? What are your friends’ and classmates’ maybe-hard-to-notice-but-really-important superpowers?
As we teach kids to reflect on the past and notice what is happening in the present, we are preparing them for the future.
From there, our actions unfold. Being a good friend, welcoming a newcomer, showing kindness–even dealing with feeling invisible–can take many different forms. Acting out scenarios beforehand can be a fun way to help kids find what feels natural for them and make it more likely that they’ll be able to pull from their “friend-making toolbox” in the moment.
Have fun with it–it’s okay to lighten it up with a little silliness. And if acting it out doesn’t feel natural for your child, try using Barbie dolls, LEGO characters, or even some stick figures drawn on scratch paper. Thinking it out beforehand can help alleviate anxiety and prepare kids to show kindness when it counts most.
MORE BOOKS TO HELP KIDS Navigate the New
The next two books are lighthearted, laugh-out-loud ways to get your family talking about how to face the unknown with grace.
Norman and the Nom Nom Factory
In Norman and the Nom Nom Factory (Bridgette Zou), an alien moves outside his comfort zone to help a newcomer. When his new friend encourages him to try new foods and change up “the way it’s always been,” Norman learns great discoveries can be made when we are open to new things.
I Really Like Slop!
Then I Really Like Slop! gives us a different take on trying something new. Gerald the Elephant is skittish (to put it mildly) about trying Piggie’s favorite dish–slop! When he finally tries it, he discovers (spoiler)…he does NOT really like slop. But in the true spirit of friendship, Gerald tells Piggie, “I am glad I tried it…Because I really like you.” And sometimes that’s what trying new things is all about.
How about you? What fears are you and your family tackling right now? How are you discussing the unknown with your family? Share with our reader community in the comments section below. Also, if you have questions you’d like us to address in a future post, drop those in there, too.
All Bible verses in this post are from: New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica