Recently, I was asked why I decided to write a children’s book to help children learn tools to overcome worry and anxiety. This past summer, I was taking a wellness class as part of my degree program at SNHU. This class required a topic of study based on the eight dimensions of wellness and I selected childhood anxiety. I discovered so many concerns which we must make a priority for the future of our society.
You see, anxiety is an even greater issue since the start of COVID-19. Social isolation and loneliness in children were found to increase the risk of depression up to 9 years later. Surprisingly, duration rather than the intensity of loneliness was more strongly associated with mental health symptoms . Studies done over the past decades have proven the kind of trauma and stress many children are experiencing during this pandemic has the increased chances of dramatically impacting their DNA, their brain function, and other critical body systems throughout their lifetimes. Children are struggling. Their parents are struggling. Parents have been forced to become teachers, regardless of their own ability. Parents have had to drop their own responsibilities to help children learn remotely. If you are a parent, you already know that your child behaves so much better for others than they do for you, right? We have all experienced moments when we hear another parent say, "Jimmy was wonderful,". We think to ourselves, "is she talking about my Jimmy?" Yet, now parents are dealing with the real Jimmy, and they are trying their darnedest to teach. But their attempts may prove futile, as the grades have come in to show children are struggling to learn.
Now, from the kid's perspectives: "You're not my teacher", "that's not what Mrs. White wants", "I don't get this," and, "stop yelling at me" are all phrases many friends have shared. But that is just the tip. Children hear what you are saying, or sense what you are feeling, whether it is intentional or not. If you are faced with a job loss, they worry. If you are anxious that you'll be exposed to the virus, and then won't be able to care for your kids or parents, they sense that anxiety. Plus, let's not forget how isolation feels for adults - now, for the kids who have enjoyed many activities, from after-school clubs to sports. Their very social lives have stopped. They now wonder if they will still have friends or worse yet, will they lose a loved one from this virus? They cannot see Grammy Jean, just like they can't see their friend Joey. They learn of a friend's grandparent who passed away from the virus. They are scared. Nothing is helping to reframe their thoughts.
Each of these examples overlooks the concerning reality for those children in hostile and abusive situations who are now left alone or worse yet, in unsafe situations where the mandatory reporters are no longer able to personally view the child's behavior and other red flags that teachers have to uncover child abuse. What I am trying to say is that ALL children are experiencing the negative impact of the coronavirus.
I believe that all children need to learn tools for self-soothing and changing their thoughts from worry to about what they can control, which is exploring in their current environment. Meaning they can look around themselves, and choose 5 or 6 items to evaluate, then narrow it down to a favorite. Then they can close their eyes, and discover various sounds like a clock ticking, birds singing, or like Niko, they may hear an ice cream truck in the background or the neighbor's lawnmower. This story helps kids discover the simple objects around them in the moment while distracting them from their worry, but not solving it. It will, however, refocus their thoughts to move forward providing relief.
Distractions can be so important when kids are stuck at home, away from their social environments. We know it is for us, as adults, right? I asked two professionals to read the manuscript for their input. Both have worked closely with children, one a newly retired primary educator and the other a LICSW who has spent a career working with children and families. Both were eager for me to move on forward with this book. They both shared that children need an easy story about a child they can relate with, to show how to use their five senses to redirect their thoughts. Their reviews are noted on the back cover of the book.
Ultimately, this is why I wrote the book to help children learn how to manage their anxiety by running through the game described in the story. I hope that others, like you, will find this equally important and help me to bring it to children through your support. It will take many supporters to make this happen. Please consider sharing this post, along with the Kickstarter campaign with your friends, family, and colleagues. The African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child" is very true. Please help me to build that village of support.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
 Wagner, K.D., (2020, October 7). New findings about children’s mental health during COVID-19. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/new-findings-children-mental-health-covid-19
 Harris, N.B., (2020, August 4). Children will pay long-term stress-related costs of Covid-19 unless we follow the science. Stat News. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2020/08/04/children-long-term-stress-related-costs-covid-19/