The world is a scary place these days. The old cliché of ‘It’s not like it used to be’ really rings true when we’re faced with terrorist attacks, political uncertainties and climate change amongst other things. How do we explain these concepts to our children in a way that helps them understand and be aware?
Jo Fitzgerald from Tiny Sponges has written a book for 4-9-year-olds that aims to help with this. How To Keep Safe … In A Sometimes Scary World is a traditional picture book with rhyming language, but the subject matter is far from traditional. It features a young boy plus his dog and family and works through what do in various scary situations – such as being lost, being in a home fire or being caught up in a dangerous event. It’s presented in such a way to prompt discussions between parents and children but also provide sensible solutions. At the back of the book, there is a guide for parents to help steer the conversations and make rules and plans for if the events do occur.
Jo has much experience with dealing with such situations herself. Having spent time in the Middle East she’s lived through a military coup and through the IRA bombings era and recent terrorist attacks here in the UK. Jo has many years of experience as a teacher and parent advisor, as well as being a mum herself. Through Tiny Sponges, she specialises in promoting learning for children of Early Years age and helping parents to build resilience and emotional wellbeing skills in their children.
My son is 5 and my daughter is nearly 3, so she’s a bit too young to understand the concepts in the book. But my son, on the other hand, would definitely be able to understand some of the ideas (perhaps not all). My approach was to try out one or two of the scenarios with him, rather than going through the whole book in one go. This was to see how he reacted, whether he got too worried or scared about what we talking about, as this would be distracting from what we were trying to achieve.
We’ve had a recent incident with him running off at school, so I started with the ‘getting lost’ scenario. I read the words to him and then we talked about what the situation was and what it meant in real life. It really helped that the illustrations were of familiar environments – being in a shop, and sat with mum and dad at the kitchen table. The prompt questions at the back of the back were a great help for covering off the whole situation. Overall it was a nice calm way to talk about being lost, and a much better way to discuss it than in the heat of the moment!
Whilst it is a hard fact to contemplate that we are having to have these types of conversations with our children, Jo’s book is an excellent aid to this and the familiarity of a picture book makes it much more accessible for little ones. I would definitely recommend it for families to read through together.
Jo’s book was successfully launched at Waterstones in Worthing at the end of June. The audience of children and adults were enthralled by Jo’s reading, and she really bought it to life. There will be another reading at Waterstones in Eastbourne soon.