Book Review: "What to Do" Guides for Kids: What to Do When...

...your temper flares...your brain gets stuck...you dread your bed...you grumble too much...you worry too much...bad habits take hold.

"The What to Do" Guides are a series of books by psychologist Dr. Dawn Huebner for helping children deal with a variety of problems ranging from every day difficulties, like how to respond to anger, to diagnosable problems, like OCD.

Did you know that your body is like a car that you need to learn how to steer, worries are like tomatoes that grow when they're fed, and disappointments are like hurdles to be jumped? By the time you're done with these books, you will! Using these and other similarly accessible analogies, Dr. Huebner brings the concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy to life, making them easy to understand and fun to practice.

The first few chapters of each book explain the problem to be addressed and set the stage for starting to make changes. You'll notice that they do not force your child to take ownership of having a problem (which can be really threatening to kids--and many adults), but explain the problem in general terms and then ask the child to consider whether they (or other people they know) ever experience these problems. The explanations make it easy for most children to accept their difficulties and give them hope that they can improve. The following chapters teach new skills, usually one per chapter, and provide exercises to practice each skill.

If you do the exercises and practice them regularly, you'll notice a difference. Resist the temptation to read through the whole book at once with your child. Remember, lasting changes take time and practice. When I use these books in my practice, I start by either reading the first few chapters in session or having parents read them with their kids at home. After that, we work on about one new skill per week. If a family is struggling with a skill, we may stay on it for a few weeks until the new skill takes hold. In between learning new skills, children and parents are instructed to spend the week practicing each skill at home. (Be prepared, parents play a major role here.) If problems come up with practice, we discuss those in session.

These books are written for children between the ages of six and twelve to be read with their parents or another adult. The concepts may seem simple, but they're supported by tons of research demonstrating that they work. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most researched types of therapy, and one of the most effective for many areas of difficulty. I highly recommend these books to both parents and other professionals who work with children.