The fear and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed daily life for every family in Kentucky.
It may not be known for months, or years, how this intensely stressful time has affected the mental health of children.
The Daviess County Public Library launched a project this week intended to offer adults and children sensitive and creative ways to talk about COVID-19 and other issues of life, death and loss.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with with Collection Development Manager Alicia Harrington about The Healing Library.
Harrington: The Healing Library is a series of kits designed to make a family's journey of healing, following some kind of trauma, easier to navigate. They include books and book discussions, but they also include crafts and things to do with your children to make the trauma understandable for them. It was created by another library, and they offered their ideas and other downloads available to other libraries. They worked with children's librarians and psychologists to find the best books and the best activities for children to understand everything from death of a pet death of a parent, to Alzheimer's, to separation and divorce. They even have one on COVID.
Miller: I was going to ask you if the pandemic is any particular reason that you're starting this now? Or is it just sort of how that worked out?
Harrington: It is how it worked out. But we do think that 2021 is going to be a healing time. So we wanted to make sure we got it out for the beginning of the year, in order for people to understand, you know, we've had a lot of deaths in the last year, we've had a lot of things happen that it's been hard for kids to understand. So we want to make their lives a little bit easier. And mamas and daddies too. And you know, whoever's working with the children, could be grandmas, could be aunts could be uncles. And the activities, even though the kit is aimed towards elementary aged children, the activities can be modified for all ages. For example, one of the kits talks about writing a note to their loved ones.
All the kits, almost all the kits include journaling, and we're going to provide some journals in the kits that people can keep and work on at their leisure. If you don't have time to do one of the crafts, just make a copy of that or take a picture of it and then you can do that craft when that child is ready. Sometimes children aren't ready to talk about things at the beginning of a trauma or an experience. And so it takes a while, you know, they may be ready two weeks, they may be ready two months. And so, you know, one thing that I've learned about therapy is that with children, therapy isn't just talking.
Sometimes it's when they play with people that things come out. So they may be playing a game and their real feelings come out in another way. You know, so they may be drawing a picture and realize, you know, Grandpa or grandma isn't with the rest of the family. They're either gone or they have Alzheimer's or dementia is taken over.
One of my children lives next door to me with their three children. And the five-year-old, she said she wanted to go to her cousin's house, “I want to go to June's house.” And I said, “Why can't you go?” and she said, “That stupid COVID.” In that moment, she could tell me exactly how she felt.
Miller: Right. She got it.
Harrington: She got it. And, you know, the dumb, stupid COVID has stopped a lot of things. But it hasn't stopped our kids from thinking.
Miller: It sounds very simple. But it sounds really important, if you use it.
Harrington: It is important. And so I think this is very timely. We're hoping that it will be popular. And we want kids to be able to talk openly about the things that are bothering them. So you know, hopefully the kits will be helpful in that way.
Miller: That's great. Well Alicia, thank you so much for taking time to talk to me. It sounds like a great project. I really appreciate it.
Harrington: Well, thank you for calling and we appreciate you getting the word out there, Rhonda.