Book Review: “An Umbrella for Alex” by Rachel Rashkin, MSWritten by: Rob Print This Article
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Personality Disorder Awareness Network is now selling a children’s book entitled An Umbrella for Alex. It is the first book we’ve seen intended for children with a parent afflicted with Borderline Personality Disorder. The book is described as:
An Umbrella for Alex
PDAN is proud to announce the publication of its first book, “An Umbrella for Alex,” by Rachel Rashkin, MS. It tells the story of how a young boy learns to understand and cope with his mother’s BPD illness.
Written to be read with a therapist or parent, the book reassures affected children that they did not cause and are mot responsible for a BPD parent’s volatile behavior.
We ordered our copy via their web site for $11.00 including shipping by US Postal Service. It arrived in our mailbox about four days later.
It’s a short book, not surprising at it appears from the content the intended audience is children probably about ages 4 to 10. The front and back cover are cardstock printed in color. The inside of the book consists of 16 pages printed in black and white text and artwork. There’s an illustration about every other page.
Although Personality Disorder Awareness Network says the book is written to be read with a parent or therapist, we think the language used would be readable by kids about 7 or 8 years of age and older. Part of the point of reading with an adult is that at the end of most pages is a question for the reader to consider. These questions would be good to discuss with another person. We think that it’s quite likely a child could read this book with an older sibling or an adult besides a parent and derive significant benefit. Reading with a person other than a parent may make it easier to engage in open discussion if the child has been subjected to parental alienation and therefore may not be as open to discussing personal feelings and emotions with parents.
The book portrays a boy named Alex as having a mother who suffers from frequent emotional outbursts and mood swings. Through guidance from his emotionally stable father and his therapist Dr. Gillman, he learns that is he not responsible for her outbursts and bad moods. He learns to view his mother’s bad moods as unpredictable storms from which he can protect himself by pretending he’s got an umbrella.
The book initially introduces the concept of moods and discusses positive and negative moods such as happiness, excitement, sadness, and grumpiness. It moves on to discuss how people’s moods change, but that most people tend to not have radical mood swings. Then it opens up the topic of a parent with unpredictable moods. This behavior is typical of parents with Borderline Personality Disorder and certain other psychological conditions.
The next few pages cover how a person with unpredictable moods behaves and how it feels to be around such a person. Alex reveals that it’s very confusing and he doesn’t know what to expect. Further, he notes that his mother yells and says nasty things to him and it hurts his feelings. Alex learns that his mother’s mood swings, even if she yells at him, are not caused by him. She owns her problem, he does not. He should not feel responsible for taking care of her mood problems.
Alex’s father points out to him that he can do fun things on his own when his mother is in a bad mood. He can play with his computer, play in his room, or go outside to play with a friend. Alex mentions that when his mother is not so stormy, she can be a fun person, too.
Finally, Alex learns that it helps to have talks with other people about his feelings and the impact his mother’s unpredictable nature has on him. It mentions other adults, good friends, and therapists as being such people.
The book never uses any psychological terms such as BPD except for in the foreword page which isn’t really intended to be read by young children. Nor does it explain the common origins of the illness. The focus stays on the child’s perception of unpredictable emotions, how it feels to be exposed to them, and what may help the child to endure such mood storms. As such, we think this book may be useful for children who have a parent with other unpredictable emotional disturbances such as Bipolar Disorder.
Overall the content of the book is helpful. We think the message might have been packaged more nicely with color printing for the artwork, but can understand that’s not easy to do with a low-volume book printing that’s designed to help raise funds for PDAN’s goals to spread awareness of personality disorders.
An Umbrella for Alex
by Rachel Rashkin, MS
US $11.00 as of January 22, 2009
Copyright 2006 Published by PDAN Press
490 Sun Valley Drive, Suite 205
Roswell, GA 30076
phone: 770-642-4236 ext. 61