Littleanthonyuk Q&A with Linda Beckett author of “What’s wrong with Arty”?
A book that acknowledges mental health among children ages 3 & 8 years old.
Linda Beckett lives in a village with her husband, Rob, in the heart of the Hampshire countryside. Inspired by tales of woodland animals told to her by her father as a child, Arty the Bear was created. Linda attained an Honours Degree in Psychology with the Open University and is a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society. With her background, Linda is well aware of the importance of tackling mental health issues in children at a young age, and this is why she wrote this book. Linda has two sons and enjoys travelling.
Arty looks so sad on the cover of his book, please tell us What’s wrong with Arty?
Arty is usually a very happy bear but today he has something on his mind and does not know what to do about it. He has a problem he can’t solve by himself so at the moment he is very worried and sad. Fortunately with the help of his friends, all will be well in Bouncy Wood again.
How will this book help teachers and parents help children inside and outside the class room?
I was shocked to learn that children of primary school age were suffering with mental health issues, and wanted to do something to help them.
I wrote this book considering the role that parents and teachers could play to help young children, but also therapists too. This book is so versatile and can be used as a tool in a number of settings.
Parents could read “What’s Wrong Arty?” to their child and start a discussion on a topic that is worrying their child at that particular time, or a situation that is causing them to be worried or anxious.
Teachers can use this book in a class discussion. There may be a topic that is forefront in the news, i.e the Covid 19 pandemic or just to discuss how they are feeling in general. The main aim of the book is to encourage children to talk about things that worry them, so to talk about their problems becomes a normal part of their lives. That way problems will not build up and become even bigger problems later in life.
Therapists can read the book to a child at the beginning of the therapy session to encourage relaxation.
Arty was very fortunate to have a outside support group, what would you say to parents of children without that added benefit? I mean children would need a coping skill to keep their chin up when in doubt without mom or day to help, sometimes teachers are to busy to notice when a child is struggling.
Children should be encouraged to write down their feelings and then discuss them with a trusted adult when the time is right. Activities that promote calm are always beneficial, such as mindfulness (look out for this in my next e-book, Arty’s Rollercoaster of Emotion). I always find that doodling on paper very relaxing or some other distraction, such as thinking about what they have planned after school, or something they are looking forward to doing, no matter how small. Positive thinking is so crucial. They can be told that it is okay to feel this way and it will pass.
What could teachers do to help students who with encouragement still wont open up to them ?
Teachers being aware there is a problem is a useful starting point in helping children with their situation. If possible, the issue should be raised with the child’s parents. A teaching assistant could be brought into the classroom to aid and give extra support to a child. Children could be encouraged to read books that you may feel would help them to open up. Use lots of praise to raise their self esteem, so they feel comfortable in their environment. This may encourage them to open up in the future. The school can also enlist the help of a school counsellor or psychologist if necessary.
As a child I had many ‘What wrong with Arty moments, growing up in a big family with 9 siblings I often got left behind. Any tips for parents of a large family to ensure that each child is heard or noticed when they have a down moment?
At meal times when everyone is together, perhaps the adults could make a point of saying that if anyone has anything they want to share they can always come to them at any time. Encourage general discussions at the table if possible so that problems can be dealt with as soon as possible. Embrace their individuality and encourage them to have their own hobbies. Perhaps they have one sibling they can connect with and support one another that way.
Sometimes parents are so busy with life and raising their families and with work that they may over look the fact that their child is struggling with a problem. How can a busy mums and dads remember to be mindful of problems that may seem small to them but are enormous stressful problems for their little one?
Communication is the key. It’s very important to listen to what their child is saying. Ask the child what they would like to do or what they would like to happen to make things better.
Most Children today have access to the internet, how can we safe guard their mental health and safety without depriving them of internet games, entertament or study?
Getting the right balance in life is so important. Limit their usage of screen time. Encourage them to meet up with friends in person and to have fun. Promote things to do as a family so they are not in their rooms for too long during the day. Set up parental controls/privacy settings on devices where possible. Have meaningful conversations and explore online safety together. Free webinars often provide useful tips for online safety too.
We see that Arty has his head down throughout the book indicating he had something on his mind. What are other signs to look out for that a child maybe in need of help?
A child that finds it hard to concentrate or talks too much, this may indicate they are struggling with a task. There may be a sudden decrease in performance. The school usually has some access to professional advice, for example, a school counsellor. All signs of hyperactivity, withdrawal, anxiety, aggressiveness and problems learning or completing a task should be investigated.
I liked that Artys young friends Suki and Robbo rabbit went to thee older wiser friend Ozzy the owl for help when they couldn’t get Arty to open up. How can we also encourage that behavioural skill in kids to reach out for help for one another?
Encourage children to ask for help when they need it, no matter how small the problem is. The whole essence of “What’s Wrong Arty?” is to encourage children to speak about their worries. As Ozzy Owl says, “two heads are better than one!”
One last question… why is Arty so darn cute!?
He just can’t help it! ☺️ He wants to appeal to boys and girls between the ages of 3 and eight years old.
I will let you into a little secret……..Arty 🐻 is about to become even cuter! All will be revealed at a later date! 😀
Resources for child metal health NSPPC Learning