All About Better Parenting Month: An Umbrella for Alex Author Interview

February 18, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 7.38.12 AMAn Umbrella for Alex is a book for children about coping with the abrupt and sometimes scary mood swings of a parent. The author, Rachel Rashkin-Shoot graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the book in the interview below.

First, a bit about the book. It is the wonderful story of little Alex and his family. His parents are at times in a stormy or cloudy mood, yet they love Alex deeply. Despite the challenges he faces, Alex values himself, continues to develop in healthy ways, and learns great skills that help him achieve his full potential, including using his imaginary umbrella during stormy times.

The book was published as a second edition by the Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN) in October 2012 and 100% of net sales of this title through go directly to PDAN. It’s a terrific resource for anyone who works with children as a therapist, counselor, and especially for parents. This book is suitable for both boys and girls, and specifically for children whose mother or father has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or other mental illness and suffers from mood swings.

Enjoy the interview!

Megan:  Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it led you to write An Umbrella for Alex?

Rachel:  Prior to receiving my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I studied Infant and Child Development at The Erikson Institute in Chicago, Illinois. During my training, I had the privilege of interning for an organization that aimed to foster healthy connections between very young children and their (very young) parents. Witnessing firsthand how the parent-child attachment relationship can be severely disrupted in children whose parents struggle with various psychological challenges, was not only heart-wrenching, but a huge eye opener. I began to wonder how I might contribute to the psychological community at-large to help those children feel less alone as they continued their development, and that’s how the idea for a book emerged.

: Why is important for kids to understand moods, and what is the most important thing for kids to understand about their parent’s unpredictable moods, anger, yelling, etc.?

Rachel: Children, particularly very young children, live in the moment; they don’t have a sophisticated understanding of their own mood states, or even what a mood is, until later on in childhood. Having said that, young children absolutely do have a sense of feeling states, and it’s important to help them label their feelings early on, and to validate those feelings. Young children living with a parent whose mood states shift unexpectedly, must be reminded frequently that they are absolutely not responsible for their parents’ moods; they did not cause the mood, and are not expected to fix the mood.

Megan: What is the most important thing a parent or other caring adult can do to help a child whose parent has unpredictable moods?

Rachel: Young children, especially, will almost immediately wonder what they did “wrong” to make a parent upset. Therefore, one of the most important things parents, and other caregivers can do to support a child is to remind the child that he/she is not bad, did not do anything wrong, and is not at all to blame for the parent’s negative mood. This is absolutely critical for children to hear as many times as necessary since most children tend to assume their behavior is what somehow caused the parent’s mood.

Megan: As mentioned in the book’s foreword, a significant portion of the U.S. population suffers with personality disorders, which is associated with unpredictable mood swings. Naturally, children are impacted. Can children ‘pick up’ or inherit moodiness from their parent(s)? If so, can this book help prevent or mitigate that?

Rachel: Children can, indeed, inherit a parent’s proclivity towards moodiness but the type of instability manifested in personality disorders is typically (though not always) the result of early relational trauma in the parent’s life. There are multiple contributing factors that determine whether or not a child will develop a personality disorder, but many protective factors, as well. For example, even if a child’s disposition is one that leans towards the type of mood instability found in personality disorders, if he or she is generally in an emotionally validating environment, feels loved and cared for and his or her development is on-track, the chances of developing a personality disorder down the road are significantly reduced.

Megan:  You’re getting ready to release another children’s book, ”In My Corner of the Moon”. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Rachel: “In My Corner on the Moon” is a book that tackles the sensitive issue of children’s traumatic experiences. This story introduces the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but never actually uses the term. Similarly, the story is careful not to suggest that all children who experienced trauma will develop disruptive symptoms. Rather, it simply touches upon (and normalizes) the various manifestations of PTSD, including irritability, emotional dysregulation, hypersensitivity, withdrawing/clingy behaviors, nightmares, somaticizing, flashbacks, risky behaviors, and “going away”  internally (dissociation) in order to escape the very real and painful memories associated with the trauma.  Narrated by 12-year-old, Abigail, the book is straightforward but gentle and has a strong psychoeducational component. Abigail defines trauma in simple terms that kids can understand, without delving into the details of her own trauma, or sugar-coating the healing process. The story’s primary aim is to normalize the response that many children have when they experience overwhelming events in their lives. Therefore, in order to accommodate the widest audience, the story deemphasizes specific traumas and instead focuses on responses to trauma and the healing process that follows. To maintain sensitivity, more emotionally-charged terms are excluded from the text. Interactive questions at the end of each page are included to facilitate therapeutic discussion among children and the important adults in their lives, namely: parents, teachers, mentors, mental health/medical professionals, and spiritual guides.

Megan: Rachel, thank you for sharing your creation with us. It is a pleasure to offer this book to children around the world so they can better understand their world, experience healing and develop resiliency. You’ve provided us with a valuable treasure for the future of our children.

 Rachel: You’re welcome and thank you for the opportunity to share.

meganMegan Hunter is founder and CEO of Unhooked Books and Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of HCD’s – whether they are employees, customers, vendors, board members, or anyone in your life. Most importantly we help you ‘unhook’ from these peoples’ behaviors so that you can make the right, next decisions – cleanly and clearly. She is also the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute launched in 2007 with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., an internationally renowned expert in High Conflict Personalities. She has been the recipient of several awards including the President’s Award by the Arizona Family Support Council (2005), the Friend of Psychology Award by the Arizona Psychology Association (2006) and the Outstanding Contribution Award by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (2010). She is a volunteer in several organizations including a member of Tanzania Project and Vice President of Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN). She holds a BA degree in business from Chadron State College and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. To contact Megan about speaking engagements or to gather more information, email


2 Responses to “All About Better Parenting Month: An Umbrella for Alex Author Interview”

  1. […] parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance […]

  2. […] parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance […]

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