It was an ordinary bike ride in an extraordinary time.
At least that was what I was aiming for. If I could get out of the house.
My 3 year old clung to the door frame, crying and refusing to leave; as I wrapped him in my arms and felt his heaving wracking sobs against my chest it dawned on me that this was no ordinary tantrum. This kid was frightened. As I held and shushed him, he finally started to talk. As the mumbles became more coherent it dawned on me what was going on. And with that realization came a bolt of ice through my heart.
He was scared of COVID-19.
At just 3 years old he was unable to discern between a virus which he could manage and control, and a monster which was hiding behind the bushes, just waiting to leap out and grab him!
This was March 2020, and COVID was just starting to get real in Victoria.
I had missed the memo about Doomsday prepping. In February I was living my best life as a working mumma to three glorious dirtbags. I simply popped my proverbial fingers in my ears every time someone mentioned the dirty C-Word. Whilst I definitely enjoyed the virus memes and toilet paper jokes, all of that was safely contained within the internet. I was living in the real world – and it wasn’t going to affect me.
And then one day I walked into the supermarket and came eyeball to eyeball with a terrifying figure in a full HAZMAT suit and gas mask. I looked around me and the aisles were empty. My core chilled and I wanted to cry. Except I couldn’t, some bastard had just made off with the last box of tissues.
Suffice it to say that I didn’t handle the start to COVID well. However, as I sat in my hallway holding my sobbing baby boy, I realised that whatever I did next – I had to aim higher for the kids.
At this stage of the crisis very little existed to help children understand COVID-19. Hell, there was very little out there for the adults. But I dug deep and came up with a Tumble Science podcast. The kids reacted enthusiastically and we listened to it again and again. They loved the science behind it - learning how the virus had mutated and where it came from meant something to them.
But you can’t cuddle up with a Podcast. In our family we use bedtime stories as a springboard to deeper conversations; I’ve used fictional books to cover topics on history, sex, gender, race and equality. The story never covers everything there is to talk about but provides a baseline that propels the conversation forward. Naturally, my first instinct had been to go looking for a friendly family text; but being so early in the pandemic one didn’t yet exist.
Believe me, my immediate reaction was not to put my hand up to write one! I had a job, and a family and a crisis to deal with, after all! However, COVID-19 was dominating our conversations. I realised that the more we spoke about it, the more reassured we all felt. I communicate openly, it comes as second nature to engage children in honest yet challenging conversations. However, my locked-down friends were telling me that they weren’t sure how to have these talks. How much information to provide and what to withhold? After all, what information do little brains need? Can we damage inherent innocence by laying it all out too honestly?
My experience tells me that children will only absorb what they are ready to hear. If you talk confidently and provide facts reassuringly then you can trust kids to take from that conversation what they need.
When The World Went Inside is our lockdown story. It’s an illustrated book for children that emerged from our lived experience. It’s a powerful story told simply, written with the hope that children would see their own experiences mirrored within the pages and feel less alone.
Hot on the heels of this global health crisis, is a mental one. There’s a lot that 2020 has asked of our little ones – from stopping and starting school, to living life as never before. Thankfully, they’re resilient little critters.
Every time I hear from a parent or teacher about their child’s reaction to the book, my heart soars. Parents, we’ve got this!!! The creative world has stepped up and there’s now a toolkit of resources out there to help guide your conversations with your children; maybe my book will be one of them. However, my purpose for writing this is to plead with you to prioritise your mental health, whatever that looks like. Our children need us happy, healthy and whole. With us standing strong by their side they’ll continue to thrive, no matter what the world has in store.
About When The World Went Inside
Learn how to stay safe and keep having fun in a world with COVID-19. This fun and beautifully illustrated book is best for kids aged 3-10 years old. If you’re parenting in a pandemic then join in the chatter in the socials!