Auburn University PhD student writes children’s book to teach coping skills

While pregnant with her first child last year, Donielle Fagan decided to write a kind of love letter to her son with a children’s book.

Fagan, a doctoral candidate at Auburn University’s College of Education, was thinking of a way to help children learn to manage their emotions. Thinking of her son, Jared, born in June, Fagan used her skills as an experienced counselor to create helpful messages for young people about emotions ranging from anger, sadness and joy to confusion, frustration and sorrow.

The result was a children’s book titled “My Feelings Are Okay”, a self-published 24-page book that aims to teach children that any feelings they may be experiencing are normal while providing guidance on how best to manage different emotions. She hopes to one day read it to her son and have him learn some important lessons from the book.

“My book is a coping skills book for kids,” said Fagan, a doctoral intern at the counseling center at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “I was thinking and gaining new ideas about what it was going to be like to be a mother, and writing the book was something I did as a kind of dedication to my son coming into the world. thought that was important because adaptation is still something we don’t do very well as a society yet.

“It’s about teaching kids that it’s okay to have some of these feelings and it’s about engaging with the emotion rather than avoiding the emotion. The idea is that if we commit to it, we develop that skill to cope and do well with whatever we experience,” she added.

Donielle Fagan, a doctoral candidate at Auburn University, wrote a children’s book called “My Feelings Are Fine” to teach children how to effectively manage their emotions. (contributed)

Fagan’s book, which was published in July 2021 and is available on Amazon.com, has been well received. It was included in the National Football League’s Reading Day on March 2, with representatives of the Atlanta Falcons reading the book to children at Heritage Academy.

“It was great, because I got to go into one of the classrooms while they were reading the book,” Fagan said. “I got some honest feedback from some students, and a second grader told me she liked it because it wasn’t something they talked about at home.

“There were a lot of community leaders from the Atlanta area who were there, and they held pep rallies and made the students feel excited and important. It was really special to see and the kids loved it.

Fagan’s experience and qualifications are varied. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Xavier University, she earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Auburn University at Montgomery and another master’s degree in counseling from Auburn University. Those degrees helped propel her through Auburn’s board-level psychology doctoral program, and she expects to graduate in August after completing her internship at Georgia Tech and defending her thesis.

The Birmingham native also has private practice experience with troubled minors and taught classes at Auburn throughout graduate school. Fagan’s practical experience helped shape his messages in the book.

“I was dealing with juvenile offenders who were troubled and had behavioral issues, and one thing I saw at all levels was an inability to cope or to cope in a healthy way,” said Fagan, who will do clinical and private work after graduation. “In the book, I basically attach a coping skill to each emotion, and developmentally that’s supposed to help them as they move into adolescence and adulthood.”

A writer for more than a decade, she also drew on knowledge gained from her extensive training, particularly in the Auburn system, while working on the book.

“The psycho-counselling program and the SERC (Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling) department are phenomenal,” said Fagan, who hopes to one day teach college again. “The type of training I received from Auburn is A-1, in terms of exposure, onboarding, experience, resources and support. Having a lot of people pouring out on me as an individual has helped me pour out into other areas and help others.

“My parents and in-laws all graduated from Alabama, and Auburn was out of my way. But I ended up in Auburn, and it was one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made. Fagan said.

Fagan said the added stress everyone has been experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic also prompted her to write the book.

“It’s been difficult for us to process even as adults, and the pandemic has been difficult for a child to process,” Fagan said. “I think one thing that everyone has experienced is isolation, and it’s important to recognize that we are social beings who really need each other. It’s really healthy for us, and just the fact that the pandemic has changed our environments – especially for children unable to interact or bond with each other – is a lot to deal with as child.

“We can’t control the pandemic, but what we can control is the impact of this pandemic,” she said. “Mental health and coping in general are very important and things we need to continue to focus on and de-stigmatise.”

Her book has been distributed to elementary and middle school children in the Atlanta public school system, and Fagan hopes its reach will continue to grow.

“I hope it becomes the go-to coping skills book for children,” she said. “It’s something we need, it’s simple, but also vital. I want it to be something that is passed down from generation to generation and talked about in people’s homes.

This story originally appeared on the Auburn University website.

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