During times of crisis and uncertainty, reading a book can bring calm and comfort to the whole family.
Here’s how to change the conversation in your house in the lead up to school’s return and some great ideas that are worth keeping on the other side.
Encourage your children to form a book club
Not just for grown-ups, a child’s book club can be a great way to combine old-fashioned learning (reading) with today’s technology. Download Houseparty, Zoom or Skype and encourage your child to connect with their friends to discuss the latest blockbuster. (Plus, it’s a great alternative to gaming!).
“Connecting with friends via telephone, video chat and social media can help reduce anxiety and restore some normality into your child’s life,” says Dr Carly Johnco, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Psychology Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University.
To set up a successful children’s book club, firstly choose a book that’s age appropriate for your child and their friends. Ask your child to nominate a few friends they’d like to discuss the book with. While they are at home they may decide to discuss the book chapter-by-chapter, which means you can make their book club ‘meetings’ a daily place to congregate and communicate their thoughts. Suggest that children discuss their thoughts on the plot, favourite character, and what they do and don’t like about the story.
“Connecting with friends during this time is vitally important for mental health,” says Dr Johnco, whose research is funded by Australian Rotary Health.
“Encourage them to call their friends, family members or neighbours, to cheer them up. This can also help kids stay connected with people outside their family and can improve social connections for others who might be more isolated.”
Why not share what you’re reading with other parents and your child’s school? As parents, stay connected with other parents to support each other and share ideas about how to #ParentInAPandemic.
Choose age-appropriate books
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to what to read, QBD Books have some great suggestions of what to read to help convey certain messages to your children.
To help kickstart your child’s library at home, or school, Australian Rotary Health has recently started a new campaign called ‘Lift the Lid on Mental Illness’ in schools, encouraging them to raise up to $1,000 to go towards youth mental health research, look out for it when school gets back. For each $2 donation they make, they also get a $2 voucher to use towards QBD Books.
Chelsea Lawrence, Children’s Buyer at QBD Books recommends the following best-sellers:
- Age 0+ – Where is the Green Sheep (Mem Fox); Koala’s Big Day Out (Roger Priddy)
- 4 years plus – The Very Super Bear (Nick Bland); Stick Man (Julia Donaldson)
- 7 years + – Diary of a Wimpy Kid 14: Wrecking Ball (Jeff Kinney); Dog Man 08: Fetch 22 (Dav Pilkey)
- 9 years + – The Beast Of Buckingham Palace (David Walliams); Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
- 13 years + – Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 05: The Conference Of The Birds (Ransom Riggs); Divergent 01: Divergent (Veronica Roth)
- 15 years + – The Last Hours: Chain Of Gold (Cassandra Clare); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Complete Collection (Jenny Han)
Use books to soothe anxiety
Books aren’t just about knowledge, they’re also a fantastic resource for calm and to help your child if they’re experiencing anxiety.
“Remind children that it is normal to have some concerns, and that you are there to help them with whatever might happen in the future,” says Dr Johnco. “Don’t promise them that everything will be fine (you can’t always guarantee that). You can provide reassurance such as scientists and doctors are working hard to keep people well, kids have the lowest risk of getting sick), but don’t provide continual or repetitive reassurance as this can actually make anxiety worse.”
To prepare them for back to school, read books that explain the current situation.
Books that help remind children about the importance of hygiene are a wonderful way to get the message across, without appearing to nag. Books such as COVIBOOK one, can explain the importance of washing hands, social distancing, sneezing/coughing into elbows or a tissue. “These are things that they, personally, can do to help stop the illness from spreading,” says Dr Johnco.
Walk the talk
“It is important to talk to kids about COVID-19,” says Dr Johnco.
“Ask your children about their understanding and about any concerns they might have [about COVID-19] and correct any misinformation they may have heard. Chances are that kids will already know at least something about the situation. They might have had exposure via media or social media coverage, overhearing others’ conversations, seeing people wearing face masks, supermarket frenzies. They might have had to change some of their regular activities for social distancing, are being asked to engage in increased handwashing and hygiene practices, or they may be at home in isolation.
They probably already know that something unusual is happening.”
As we prepare them to go back to some familiar activities like the park and school, continue to ensure you’re communicating the most up-to-date and correct information, go to reliable sites, such as the Australian Department of Health, CDC, WHO, and discuss this information in an age-appropriate way.
“Don’t share catastrophic information or excessive amounts of threat information that might be too overwhelming at their stage of development,” says Dr Johnco.