How books can spark conversations about thoughts and feelings
Published on: 29 May 2023
Author and doctor Sunita Chawdhary shares how connecting with characters in stories can help children’s well-being.
Sunita Chawdhary and the cover of Mind and Me
The ultimate sidekick
From yetis to unicorns, alpacas to axolotls, mermen to magic mirrors, crayons to caterpillars, pretty much anything you can think of has starred in a children’s book. Through the years, writers and artists have conjured up heroes and villains that children around the world have admired and feared in equal measure. That said, my favourite and some of children’s literature’s most loved and memorable characters are, in fact, sidekicks. If you ask me, the most magical, powerful and unique sidekick in any adventure is a child’s own mind – the ultimate sidekick!
Our minds are integral to who we are and to our well-being. Getting to know and looking after our minds is something we can all benefit from.
In my new book, Mind and Me, we join Maya on a journey of self-discovery as she searches for her missing pet rabbit, Pooey. Maya must work together with her Mind to find Pooey, using all five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – as well as using her imagination and memory to travel back in time for clues.
But Maya and her Mind don’t always see eye to eye. The biggest challenge as the mystery unravels, is the roller-coaster ride of tricky thoughts and feelings along the way, which young readers can relate to as they go through the ups and downs of their own day to day experiences. Every experience, big or small, offers an opportunity for learning how to navigate our thoughts and feelings, some of which will inevitably be difficult ones.
Illustration: Erika Meza
Making friends with your Mind
The story is a sneak peek into the inner world of a child character whose own narrative is interwoven into her Mind’s ever-changing take on things. Maya’s Mind changes as dramatically as the weather – from sunny and bright, to grey and gloomy.
Mind is a reflection of Maya’s ideas and emotions (even when they are at odds with each other), in ways children can understand and begin to express for themselves through words and mark-making. Mind as a sidekick is made up of a bit of everything – virtuous and heroic in some moments, whilst unapologetically the anti-hero at other times. This can be a great starting point for talking to young readers about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, as they discover different parts of their personalities and explore their sense of self.
Historically, mental health and well-being have not been given the priority they deserve at societal level. This is especially true when compared with the importance given to physical health. The hope is that through sharing our stories and connecting with ourselves and each other, we can nurture a greater awareness and develop ways to achieving well-being in future generations from early on.
Be kind to your Mind: 5 top tips
Five ways to well-being incorporated into the story of Mind and Me that are rooted in evidence and that we can all benefit from practising are:
CONNECTING with others
BEING ACTIVE and getting moving
LEARNING new things
GIVING to others and being kind
FOCUSING on what’s going on here and now, being present in the moment (sometimes referred to as mindfulness)
Mind and Me by Sunita Chawdhary is out now.
Follow Sunita on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sunitachawdhary
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