I love that the words ‘wellness’ and ‘mindfulness’ are so well understood these days. It wasn’t always the case and like most people my age and older, when growing up, I had to try to work through my worries without guidance. My generation had little understanding, and at times weren’t even aware of, obstacles like shyness or anxiety. There wasn’t as much awareness as there is today and parents and children didn’t have the same tools or know-how back then. It was often accepted that life would teach you how to deal with feelings and therefore feelings were rarely expressed and subsequently pushed back into our subconscious minds. For some people they festered and caused issues throughout life.
As children’s mental health seems to be a growing concern, many studies have been carried out to understand mental health as children develop. One recent study from the Co-SPACE study (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics), of which 10,000 parents and carers took part on their children’s mental health through lock-down, reports that children aged 4-10 years saw increases in emotional difficulties and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry. It is difficult for parents to figure out how best to support their children, but the simplest way is working together on a plan (like in this case knowing the importance of handwashing, wearing masks and keeping distance, etc.). Connecting with the child is vital too, so they know they are being taken seriously.* I became particularly interested in the importance of supporting children and helping them find solutions when my kids showed signs of anxiety. As a family we always loved creative play, so to try and address their issues, together we made up bedtime stories about their problems. They started off with something that might have happened that day and by the end of it, a fairy had come to the rescue. This brave fairy we called Fairy Elle. These stories had an amazing feel-good effect and relaxed my kids before drifting off to sleep. It was then my children suggested that other kids would love Fairy Elle and that got me thinking that I could bring Fairy Elle to life... and we did. Together we set off to design a doll, one who could spread positive messages to help children. We also loved the idea that she could sleep during the day (as fairies do) and wake at night, so we designed her so that she is reversible. My kids got very excited to find notes that Fairy Elle would leave them. To be honest, they knew it was me, but they still enjoyed the role-play. That is when we decided a notepad would go well with Fairy Elle and we also thought a bottle for children to make their own magic would be nice. There is a book too included that we all wrote together; then in late 2019, Fairy Elle was born. As Fairy Elle is a new concept, I thought that getting the message out there would be next to impossible, but I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and interest in Fairy Elle. The feedback I’ve got from parents is that their child writing to Fairy Elle helps them to open up conversations about feelings. As long as parents are engaged and creative, it’s a win-win for all. As a child grows and their belief in magic dwindles, their belief in themselves grows as they feel stronger and more resilient. Over Covid-19 lock-down, many parents have been in touch to say how useful Fairy Elle has been in helping their child deal with worries. One parent told me how her little girl would write asking Fairy Elle to make the Coronavirus disappear. One morning Fairy Elle had left a note saying everyone in the whole world felt the same and one day hopefully scientists would find a cure. A few nights later the little girl wrote back saying how much better she felt because she kept thinking about the day when she grows up and how she’d become a scientist to help to take the virus away. What I love about this little girl’s solution is that she owns her problem and recognises the process of finding a solution to help herself. Positive thinking can be powerful. When a child works through their worries, believing in themselves and coming up with solutions, it is wonderful training in resilience. How I wished I’d understood this when I was younger. Now as we come out of lock-down into a very different world and getting ready to go back to school, many parents are asking how do I prepare my child? First thing - and most important - is that if your child is worried, talk to them and listen. Get them to open up. Keeping a journal is a great way to work through thoughts and I’m a big believer in problems being e looted through writing them down. This is also great for teenagers, so if your child is past fairies‘ stage (we recommend ages 3-9 for Fairy Elle) there are other solutions and ways to help. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost a third of all 13 to 18 will experience an Anxiety disorder and apparently that statistic is steadily increasing. Whether this is that more people are opening up to what is going on in their heads, or that more people are suffering from anxiety it is important that we listen and give them ways to be strong by exploring solutions. Emotional pain is serious and according to Nicole Fisher, (Forbes), Emotional & Physical Pain Are Almost The Same - To Your Brain. It is important to realise that each and every person has problems but the techniques we use to deal with and manage them is what makes the difference. Therefore supporting a child’s emotional development by working through solutions and positive experiences are the foundation of resilience, wellbeing and happier lives.
My name is Therese, I’m a mother of four and I am passionate about young peoples‘ wellbeing. As you’ve read, Fairy Elle is for younger children, however, for older children (teens), I’m about to launch a Positive Life Journal. It encourages them to think through emotions and build mental strength. It is beautifully designed, filled with fun exercises on topics such as becoming confident, assertive and strong and so much more to help them to grow into happy adults. Please link on social media for launch date and more. Instagram @fairyelle.ie Website www.fairyelle.ie You can buy Fairy Elle www.fairyelle.ie - €32 + postage *I love Joanna Fortune’s 15 Minute Parenting books (Irish child psychotherapist). She has quick and easy suggestions to connect with children and is available on Amazon and a highly recommended read.