Social-Emotional Books for Military Kids
Hello, Partners in PROMISE community! My name is Destiny Huff and I am an Army spouse of almost 10 years, a mother of two amazing boys, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Special Education Parent Advocate! I began my journey as a Mental Health Professional over a decade ago and am excited to share some social-emotional books for military kids with you!
I met my husband through a mutual friend while I was working to obtain my license as a mental health professional. We got married in 2014. Since becoming a military spouse, we have made it through five duty stations, two deployments and countless training missions. Along the way, we had our two sons, who are now six and four. Having them transformed me into the special education advocate I am today.
When our oldest son began school in 2021, he began to display some perfectionistic struggles with black-or-white thinking, the need for routine and structure and big responses when things didn’t go as he expected. My husband and I did our best to prepare him for the school setting and to create a plan with the school. But like many parents, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
Fast forward to 2022, many meetings, suspensions, a lot of tears, some evaluations, and our son was ultimately diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, level 1. After we completed his evaluation, he received an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for social-emotional developmental delay. It was then that my husband and I learned we knew nothing about the special education process, behavior plans, IEPs versus 504s or the military’s Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
So, I did what many new special ed parents do, I jumped into researching and engaging every resource I could find. Before our oldest son’s Autism diagnosis, we had discovered our youngest son had a speech developmental delay and needed assistance in language development but since he was not in the school setting the process to assist him was easier. After what we endured with our older son and knowing we needed to prepare our youngest son for entry into the school system in 2024, as he will most likely require a 504, I decided to make my efforts more intentional, becoming a special education parent advocate. I did not want any military families to endure what my family had endured.
We were not familiar with how special education works in general, let alone, behavior intervention plans (BIPs), special education evaluations, parent rights, IEPs or 504s. We also weren’t familiar with EFMP as it relates to diagnoses such as Autism. We didn’t realize EFMP enrollment is a requirement and can impact approval for specific duty stations and orders as it relates to a military Permanent Change of Station (PSC) move.
At the time of our son’s Autism diagnosis, we had received overseas PCS orders and had to delay them to enroll in EFMP. This delay caused behaviors in both our children and strain and stress on myself and my husband. It was one of the most difficult things that our family had endured and we are just now coming to the other side of it.
While navigating special education, EFMP, and behaviors that arose due to the lack of transition that we had prepared them to make, we recognized that both of our children needed social-emotional education to ease their numerous transitions and cope with military life. This motivated me to find books on social skills, discussing emotions, managing emotions, recognizing and understanding the feelings of others, and how to handle behaviors during stressful situations.
Destiny’s Recommended Social-Emotional Books for Military Kids
Before becoming a military spouse, I was pursuing a Doctorate. This was eventually conceded to a second master’s degree due to our frequent military moves and having children. However, my personal and professional passion for social-emotional learning, mental health and military children has rekindled my educational pursuits. I recently went back to school, was able to transfer in credits and I am now in the last stages of writing my dissertation to pursue a Doctorate in Psychology. My dissertation focuses on therapists’ use of books with military children as a support strategy to address the unique life stressors that they face.
Below are some of the social-emotional books for military kids I have collected and recommend for military families:
Shows children how their anger is masking other emotions and techniques they can implement to alleviate those emotions through pictures
Tiny Temper and worried worrier provide visuals for how a child’s anger and worry can increase on the inside and how it can be addressed, and these are faves for both of my beautiful brown boys!
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
This book showcases how mistakes can be turned into something beautiful and is a favorite of my perfectionistic oldest son!
Feelings Ninja, Frustrated Ninja, Problem Solving Ninja, Emotionally Intelligent Ninja
These books, respectively address how to problem solve and ask the following questions,
What are the core feelings that children below 11 identify as having?
What does frustration look like?
How can they manage their frustration?
What is emotional intelligence?
My boys love the ninja series, and we own too many books to count lol.
My Body Sends a Signal by Maguire Natalia
This book is excellent at helping children recognize where they can feel emotions and feelings within their bodies and what those feelings and emotions can be!
Little Big Feelings by Deb Mills
This book talks about different feelings and situations where those feelings can be displayed and how to implement skills to help safely express feelings.
Roaring Mad Riley by Allison Szcziecinski
This book helps children recognize how their anger impacts them and others and shows ways they can respond in the future. My four-year-old loves this book.
This book is good for the kiddos transitioning to new schools which happens often with our military kiddos.
This is great for kiddos who struggle with black-or-white thinking: “I can’t do this.” “I’m never going to be able to do this.” “Everyone knows how to do this but me.” It shows them how they can’t do it YET, but one day they can or will be able to if they practice and try.
The Kissing Hand Series by Audrey Penn
This book is great for our kiddos who are struggling with new siblings. It also instructs parents in helping them understand that they are loved equally and that a new sibling doesn’t change that love.
This book is for kiddos that are going through transitions. It is about leaving a place and going to a new one, which is common with our military kiddos. This book shows them how they can find beauty and friendship in new places and love it too.
This is great for our younger kiddos. It allows them to associate color with emotion and how that can look and make us feel!
I am who I’m meant to be!: Autism book for children, kids, boys, girls, toddlers, parents, teachers, and caregivers by Amy Pflueger
This book worked great for explaining Autism to my son and his younger brother and helping them recognize what it can look like and what it can be!
Connect with Destiny
In addition to curating social-emotional books for military kids, Destiny is licensed in both Georgia and Louisiana and is certified to supervise up-and-coming clinicians in both states as well. She also has a private practice, HRG Counseling & Supervision, LLC.