How NAMI’s “Meet Little Monster” Helped My Clients Access Their Emotions by Lizzie Sierra When my colleague shared the Spanish version of NAMI’s “Meet Little Monster” coloring and activity book with me, I immediately thought of the two families I had been working with as a parenting educator. One of the families I worked with had an 11-year-old girl who was very shy; she kept her head lowered all the times, made no visual contact and was afraid to start in middle school. I hoped the book could be a resource for her. When I visited the family, I sat with the mother and daughter to talk about the “Meet Little Monster” book. The girl got excited when she noticed I was carrying crayons; she was eager to start coloring. I explained to her that we would read the book together, and we would color while we answered the questions. She was attentive the entire time. The activity book provided a good entry point for discussing emotions. While we read and saw how things happened that caused Little Monster to feel sadness and fear, the girl was quiet. But then I asked her what she had seen that made her sad and scared, she told me her story. She came to the U.S. from Honduras with her grandmother, and she faced many challenges throughout the journey. She remembered that there were times when she did not eat and other times when she had to share her food with others. She also shared a harrowing story about the time she needed to ride a train while hiding inside a box so inspectors would not find her. It was a terrifying experience, she recalled. The girl’s mother sat there listening quietly — processing her daughter’s struggles that she had not previously known about. As we continued reading the book, I noticed a change in the girl’s facial expression as she began to recognize that the events of her past made her brave and strong. As an educator, I was able to teach her that when she gets to middle school, some of her fears (like learning English) will come, but that she has the capacity to be strong and overcome the challenges that come her way. While we talked through these fears, she was able to identify and express her feelings. She became more open, and even made eye contact with a big smile on her face. When I went to visit the family a week later, the girl’s smile was huge. She was so visibly happy, and she even gave me a hug when I arrived at the house. She proudly held up her “Meet Little Monster” book to show me that she had colored the entire thing. Her mother said that now she is more talkative and less afraid to start middle school. The book seemed to have benefits beyond the girl’s progress. As I worked with the family, the mother began to experience her own feelings. After watching her daughter work through the book, she was able to recognize her own feelings of fear and concern that she experienced when traveling to the U.S. without her child. This process opened a door to help both mother and daughter share their experiences in a safe and productive way. Lizzie Sierra is a Parenting Educator with Parenting Matters. NAMI's "Meet Little Monster" coloring and activity book is available for download in English and Spanish.