Parents, if your kids are worrying about the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, keep calm - help is on the way.
Tauranga's Janet Peters, a liaison with the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership, has written a book on how to teach children about Covid-19, in co-ordination with Dr Paul Hirini, a registered clinical psychologist and lecturer at Te Whare Wānganga o Awanuiārangi.
Peters said the idea for the book, Aroha and Puddi Learn About the Coronavirus, came about after she wrote a paper with a colleague about the impacts Covid-19 would have on mental health.
While parents hadn't been contacting her personally, she realised there "wasn't a lot out there" for teaching children about the virus in an age-appropriate way, she said.
Peters and Hirini aimed the book at young children, aged under 10 years.
"It's a scary time for all of us, and for children particularly - I thought it would be a good idea to get some basic public health messages out there, in a child-friendly way," Peters said.
The book follows a young Māori girl named Aroha, who lives in Mount Maunganui, she said.
"Her mother tells her about the virus, and she goes and talks to her neighbours - with a 2m distance - and asks their advice."
Every time Aroha learns something new, she passes on that information to her cat, Puddi, which was named for Peters' cat.
"At the end, Aroha summarises everything to Puddi and she feels better."
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Peters and Hirini "kicked about" the idea for a few weeks before settling on the story, Peters said, and they got feedback from other psychologists, as well as children and parents.
"We're pretty happy with it," she said.
While Peters was keen to point out she wasn't the only author, Hirini said she was definitely "the driver" of the project.
"She's an unsung champion of mental health," he said.
"It's obviously affected everything and everyone, and I was happy to support Janet."
As a parent of young children himself, Hirini said he was "especially mindful" of how young children were feeling during the lockdown.
What they wanted to bring across with the book was a way for children to express themselves, as they lack the language at that age to tell people how they are feeling, Hirini said.
"They don't have the vocabulary or the mental maturity to understand, so their experience is largely emotional and behavioural, for primary-aged children especially," he said.
"It's important that things are interpreted in a developmentally-appropriate way, with simple but relevant stories with people they can relate to."
Peters said the book would hopefully be released "in the next couple of weeks" and while there would be about 500 copies released in the initial printing, it would also be available free on her website.
She hoped to donate the physical copies to schools, and that government agencies such as the Ministry of Education would pick it up in the future.