The World Health Organization announced today that they partnered with over 50 humanitarian organizations to release a children’s storybook to help them understand and cope with all the changes and fears they’re enduring due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The free book, available in downloadable and audio forms, is called My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19! According to a press release from WHO, the book “explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality.”
To gain insight for what kids’ are going through right now, “more than 1,700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world shared how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to WHO.
The book is available in six languages currently with 30 other translations slated to roll out so that the book is available to children around the world. The story is geared toward kids who are 6 to 11 years old.
The Story Addresses Difficult Emotions Children Don’t Know How to Navigate Through Imagination
The story follows a girl, Sara, into a fantasy adventure in which she flies around the world on a friendly dragon. Through their interactions, they address the need for safety and how to deal with anxieties and fears. It also acknowledges how to deal with missing loved ones, friends and school.
The story doesn’t shy away from the reality of the virus, including the fact that death is sometimes caused by COVID-19. It talks about the confounding nature of the virus which causes no symptoms in some while others become severely ill and even die, and how we don’t fully understand it yet.
My Hero is You aims to help children find a mental safe space for when they are afraid, and points out that everyone can be a hero right now, by doing their part.
There Is a Lot Parents Can do to Help Kids Manage Through These Times, Including Managing Their Own Stress
According to the Child Mind Institute, creating and keeping routines, being creative about new activities and exercise, and letting kids have virtual play dates all go a long way to keep their minds healthy.
Robert Root, Ph.D., Child and Adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute even recommends carving out time for unstructured play, which he says “allows for creativity. It improves problem-solving in children. It heightens resilience and very importantly it teaches children how to handle boredom without returning just to electronics.”
But the CMI tips also say that it’s vital that parents and caretakers manage their own anxiety too because kids pick up on that.
Mark Reinecke, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with CMI advises,“Watch out for catastrophic thinking. Keep a sense of perspective, engage in solution-focused thinking and balance this with mindful acceptance.”
For parents, The CMI recommends limiting news intake, not thinking the worst every time you or someone you live with coughs, and keeping in touch with friends and family on a regular basis to support one another.
WHO recommends reading My Hero is You with your children regardless of their reading level rather than letting them read it alone. They also say a supplementary guide will be published at a later date to help adults support kids in managing their feelings and emotions, along with activities to do in tandem with the book.
A statement from Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF says, “All over the world, children’s lives have been completely upended — the majority of them living in countries with some form of restricted movement or lockdown. This wonderful book helps children understand and navigate this new landscape and learn how they can take small actions to become the heroes in their own stories.”