We all talk about mental health a lot these days, but a lot of the conversations centre around adults. Starting a dialogue about children’s mental health is more difficult, because we don’t always have the tools to engage with them meaningfully, in a way that they can understand us and we can understand them.
It’s been a tough year for everyone’s mental health, but at least we as adults understand that the sacrifices we make are to protect those we love and can see a life beyond this pandemic. Our children, however, have had an immensely disrupted year. Schools have opened and closed several times, the rules became more and more confusing and changeable each lockdown and when you don’t have a full grasp of what’s happening around you, that can seem extremely frightening and confusing.
We need to check in with our kids’ mental health as much as we do with our own. And Children’s Books Ireland have given us the tools to do this. The ‘Mind Yourself Resource Pack' and videos are all about encouraging conversation s around mental health and wellbeing through children’s literature.
Aimed at primary school students, this is also a resource that can be used by parents to help families open up a dialogue about mental wellbeing. The activities range from arts and crafts to games, thought experiments, sensory exploration, mood check-ins and more. The activities are specifically designed to make children between the ages f 0-12 feel safe, loved and heard.
Based around 21 books from the Mind Yourself Mental Health and Wellbeing Reading Guide, they are accompanied by six companion videos that are all available to watch on this YouTube playlist, Children's Books Ireland.
These videos include Análú Balúin (balloon breathing) with Máire Zepf, Artists’ Sensory Warm-Up with Juliette Saumande, Creating Characters with Ashwin Chacko, Creating Sensory Stories with Sadhbh Devlin and Storytelling with Oein DeBhairduin.
The Mind Yourself Resource Pack is a companion publication to the Mind Yourself: The Mental Health and Wellbeing Reading Guide which was produced in response to the pandemic in 2020. The guide was a ‘first aid kit’ for worries, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and any number of feelings and hopefully a great many young readers found relief and solace in seeing their lives reflected on the page and gained an understanding of what others may be quietly going through.
The age-ranges attached to each title are a suggested guideline, but parents and teachers will have a better understanding of the level needed by their children and class. Very often the suggested activities are suitable for all ages, even when the book itself is recommended for older or younger readers (and remember older children gain great benefits by reading picture books – so don’t be afraid to use all the titles for older groups). You could always run the activity ‘without’ the book, or use it to complement your exploration of an entirely different book altogether.
The range of activities vary from arts and crafts to games, thought experiments, sensory exploration, mood check-ins and more. Some are individual, some collective, indoors, outdoors, some will leave something physical behind; others will have an effect that is less tangible. They are designed to help children feel calm, safe, happy, heard, loved and connected.
Children’s Books Ireland is the national charity & arts organisation that champions every child’s right to develop a love of reading. Through our many activities and events we aim to engage young people with books, foster a greater understanding of the importance of books for young people and act as a core resource for those with an interest in books for children in Ireland.
Check out Children's Books Ireland for more information.