When the Coronavirus hit in March, many parents were faced with questions about jobs, healthcare and homeschooling. And they weren’t the only ones. Lots of kids had questions, too. Luckily authors Amber Lappin, M. Ed. and Stephanie Machado-Jenkins, M.S.W., LCSW created a delightful book Wait, I Have a Question! which put a lot of younger minds to ease.
Since anxiety is such a common co-morbid condition of T.S., I reached out to these authors who graciously granted me an interview. And so, to re-boot my Taco Tuesday (which I’m renaming TIC-O Tuesday) here’s what these professionals had to say.
Wait! I Have a Question! is a book written for families with young children who are trying to find out how to explain the mixed-up, wild world of social distancing. Beautiful illustrations and a relatable story help kids make a little sense of this WEIRD crisis.
What Kinds of Kids Would Benefit From this Book?
The authors wrote, “We’re hoping children ages 3-7 will relate to Sebastian, a young boy who has BIG questions about why he has to stay at home, why his brother’s home from college, and how his sister is going to school. We hope that Sebastian’s feelings will be familiar and that the ways he learns to navigate them will open discussions for families.”
Why They Wrote It? (Psst: Steph and Amber became friends in high school- Class of ‘90!)
Steph began to first see the need in her client care. Parents were struggling with navigating the challenges of little separation between work and home life, and littles were responding to the physical presence of their parents and the lack of their availability during “work” hours. Here’s the actual text:
(Note from Andrea – any writers out there – this is how things get started sometimes. Check out my site over here or follow me on Facebook for more encouragement!)
Stephanie and Amber’s Professional Backgrounds
Stephanie Machado-Jenkins is a clinical Social Worker. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Social Psychology and USC with a Master in Social Work. She owns a private practice and specializes in treating adults with a trauma history. “I combine old fashioned ‘talk’ with expressive therapies,” she reports. She also teaches at a local university in their School of Social Work Department and serves as a field instructor for Master level Social Work students who are learning the art of clinical work.
Amber began as a preschool teacher at ABC Child Care Centers in Temecula, CA, where she still works today. “This gave me an excellent foundation for learning to love and care for children-and the people who care for them,” she says. In the years that followed, she wore many hats: in the preschools as a curriculum and literacy specialist, in a large children’s ministry as a part of the admin team, as a trainer and as a curriculum writer and consultant.
“I soon found that my biggest passion was in caring for the adults who care for children, so I went back to school to earn a BS in Human Development at Hope International University, and a M.Ed. with a specialty in Early Education at Grand Canyon University. Now, I am part of the faculty team at Mt. San Jacinto’s Teacher Education and Developmental Studies Department (TEDS), a foster parent educator for Riverside City College and I still get to work with ABC and as a freelance a conference speaker, trainer, and writer.”
Stephanie is a first generation Mexican American and the daughter of an immigrant Mother. “I grew up in the Los Angeles area and moved with my family to Riverside County in my Junior year in high school. I moved to West Los Angeles in 1990. I continue to reside in Southern California with her husband David and son, Xavier.”
Amber lives in Riverside County with her husband Jason and 20 year old twin daughters. “We also have a three-legged cat and a perfect dog.” She goes on to say, “My son works as a firefighter in New Mexico- which is way too far away for my liking.” She and her husband will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary this year. “In our pre-pandemic lives, our hobbies were travel and eating at restaurants. Now, our hobbies are staying thankful and trying not to walk in on each other’s Zoom calls.”
Kids, Anxiety and This Book
In Wait! I Have a Question! Sebastian has GREAT ideas for addressing all sorts of feelings, including anxiety. His “I CAN” list is a nice start. Instead of focusing on what he wasn’t allowed to do while social distancing, he made a list of things he could do. Caregivers who are working with children struggling with anxiety can help kids make a list of things they can do, and then use it to help them focus on the now instead of what has happened or what might happen.
The authors stated, “Depending on your faith tradition, you may also find prayer helpful. It’s important that we don’t teach our kids that praying is a magic shield that keeps us safe from germs. Instead, we can use the time in prayer and meditation to take our worries and cares to God, and allow God to calm our hearts and minds. Incorporating deep breaths and undistracted times can settle our spirit as well as benefit our bodies.” They go on to add, “You may find apps like Calm and Headspace helpful. Each app has a number of soothing meditation recordings that are great for kids.”
Talking About Feelings
Stephanie says, “I also strongly recommend that parents encourage their children to talk about how they feel. Sometimes adults overlook that their children are also hearing newscasts that talk about people who are sick and the numbers of people across the world that have died. This can have huge impacts on our children. We have developed a conversation talking guide for this reason. We encourage you to use the guides and get your children processing.”
In addition to talking about feelings she adds, “Movement is also a huge help. In the last few weeks, we have enjoyed urban walking paths and outside water play (it’s been hot here) and this is also a good source of recreation and fun!”
Parents and Self-Care
(Note from Andrea – Ya’ll know I love this topic!) The writers encourage parents to engage in their own self-care. Stephanie says, “I am mindful of the fact that many of us no longer have work-life separation that could create an incredible imbalance in how we feel. It’s important to set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy. Also, keep in mind that doing ‘nothing’ is in fact doing ‘something.’”
Routine vs. Play in Times of Quarantine
“Structure is important,” Stephanie says, “And it’s essential to lean into play and creativity. Dr. Dan Siegel says, ‘Play produces possibility and potential.’ I have and will continue to stand by this. These times require an outlet so that we can move anxious and worried energy ‘up and out,’” she insists, going to on to emphasize, “All sorts of play allows us to rid ourselves of the feelings that weigh on us. I’ll add that play is not just for kids. Adults need to play too! I regularly engage in play so that I feel connected to myself and that I am connected to a creative outlet that restores my soul. I absolutely enjoy my ‘go to’ play activities such as painting, collaging, photography and baking. I also reach out to my circle of friends and loud laugh regularly! We clinicians have an awesome sense of humor!”
While Amber admits play is critical, she points out that structure is an equally wonderful grounding opportunity for both kids and parents. “During crises, when chaos seems to be an overarching theme, it helps when children can lean into the stability of at least a few familiar routines,” she says. “Keeping developing brains regulated with the structure of expected patterns in the day can also help minimize tantrums, anxiety, and squabbles.” I am recommending to parents of young children to draw up a loose version of the basic times of their day- a ‘flexible schedule’ if you will. As tempting as it is to let set times slide, this can be the root of some really wild behavior.”
She goes on to say, “Because it’s a totally mixed up, wild time, it’s okay to make bedtimes later and allow some ‘sleeping in.’ This may afford the parents some time to get up early and get work done before their littles wake up. But don’t forget that children under the age of 5 need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day (this can include naps.) That didn’t change just because of the pandemic! When you have a set bedtime (even if it’s later!) and a set wake up time (even though waking up small children seems plain wrong), you help your children get the sleep patterns they need to be able to rest well and function better throughout the day. (Hint: same for parents! They need healthy sleep cycles too!)
Collaboration During Times of Quarantine (For my Writers Out There!)
Amber and Steph had daily Zoom meetings including many a Sunday to get it done! They were aware of the many responsibilities they also had and were mindful of ensuring that their time spent was efficient and productive.
“We also shared Google pages so that we could jot down ideas and exchange thoughts as the book was being created,” Stephanie reports. “We were also good about the occasional late night texting so that we did not forget a critical piece of information as a thought struck us,”
Would They Do It Again?
“Absolutely!” both writers say. They have a few ideas in the hopper and would love to keep Sebastian’s adventures alive. They are considering how they might collaborate on bringing social/emotional developmental workshops to different organizations and agencies.
They had an incredible collaborator in Rock Barcellos, an illustrator in Brazil. He was able to perfectly catch the writers’ vision to bring Sebastian and his family to life! He was also super patient with them as they were trying to work as quickly as possible to get this book out while it could still be useful for families (“We must’ve checked in with his progress several times a day!” Amber admits. “We could not be more pleased with the work that he did. He’s AMAZING.”
Taco Tuesday is all about sharing joy with friends and family. If you were at my table, what kind of taco would you eat?
Amber says, “I’m a street tacos girl. Just give me some carne asada with some grilled veggies and some guac on a nice, soft, handmade tortilla, and you’ll not hear a single complaint out of me.”
Stephanie reports,”It has to be a chorizo potato taco!”
With that order out of the way, you can find more about these authors, the illustrator and the book here!
Until next time,
May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you can not change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.