Books to help kids cope with the crisis
Children’s books expert Lorraine Levis suggests titles to reassure children
There are ways we can use books to help explain these scary and uncertain times to kids so even if they don’t know the full extend of what is happening, we can help them process their feelings.
Q. With the world in lockdown because of the virus, my children are confused and worried about what is going on. How do I reassure them and also help them deal with their anxiety?
Knowledge is a powerful thing. As adults, it’s our responsibility to ensure that children get the information they need in a way that they can understand but also in a manner which will cause the smallest amount of discomfort and pain.
In most cases there are rituals already established to help us guide them through whatever is happening. We can remember how adults reassured us when we were children and we try to pass that comfort on to them or we consult other parents, our own parents or even strangers on the internet so we can be sure that we are making the right call.
But what do you do when something happens that has never been seen in our lifetimes? What if we can’t shelter them from the bad things and everywhere you look there are more reminders and restrictions that you have to explain to your little ones?
That’s the situation we’ve found ourselves in due to the outbreak of Covid-19/Coronavirus. The simple rules of morality go out the window here; following the rules won’t necessary lead to good outcomes. This isn’t Santa or the Tooth Fairy, the unseeable force in this situation isn’t going to give you a present or minimise the pain of losing something. Trying to explain that there is now an extra set of rules to keep us safe against something you can’t see that will make us sick? It’s the stuff of nightmares no matter how old we are.
So what can we do? Well, goodness knows I’m no medical professional so beyond the washing of hands, sneezing into elbows and generally just staying at home, I’m not much help there. But, as always, there are ways we can use books to help explain these scary and uncertain times to kids so even if they don’t know the full extend of what is happening, we can help them process their feelings.
Books to explain the virus
I’ve tried to pick books which are available in an electronic format for ease of access. Please check online and see if you local bookshops are delivering again and support them if you can!
While not technically a book, bestselling author-illustrator duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have rewritten some of their bestselling picture books to explain some of the new rules we need to follow. Check them out below!
Children’s book publisher Nosy Crow and now Gill in conjunction with Axel Scheffler have published a free ebook explaining in simple and reassuring terms what the virus is and what we can do to help slow the spread and look after each other. This book is suitable for children from around 5 with adult supervision but is particularly useful for kids age 8 and up.
Talking about feelings and anxiety
These titles are a simple and engaging way to help you start conversations about mental health. Although it may feel like we can’t do much to help ease the worries they might be having, books are a familiar way to broach the subject without them feeling like they’re being lectured. Helping children build a mental health toolkit can help them deal with all sorts of situations, not just something as specific as what we are going through at the moment.
Helping children to be more mindful and in touch with their feelings will go a long way towards helping them deal with the uncertainty we all feel. Just as it can in adults, worries and stresses build up quickly in children’s minds and can lead to outbursts, trouble sleeping and any other side-effects which we would all rather avoid. Using these books, we can become our own mindfulness masters and gain develop some skills which will stand to us and the little ones well after this storm has passed!
Having children write down their worries and anxieties is a great way for them to process and share how they are feeling. It can be difficult to decipher emotions at the best of times, trying to do that in the middle of a crisis is even harder. For children and teens, having an outlet they can funnel those thoughts into will help them calm the chaos in a productive way.
I would also recommend the adults have a look through these books too, not only so you can engage with the child about what they are reading but you might also find some of the activities useful too!
It’s a cliche of course but staying active has a huge amount of benefits for our mental health and children are no different! Gentle and fun movements like those found in yoga can help little ones slow down, relax and have fun while also keeping fit and active.
In the end, we all have to do what we can to get through these troubling times. When we, the adults, don’t know what the future holds, it can be so hard to try and keep positive in front of the kids. They obviously know something is different, that they can’t see their grandparents or other loved ones for a while. They can’t go to school and see their friends. Their whole lives have been turned upside down and while ignorance can sometimes be bliss, for children it can be scary to feel like everything is changing but there’s nothing we can do to fix it right away.
But with the right tools and by taking it one day and worry at a time, we can help them through it until the world goes back to some semblance of normal!