As we observe Children’s Mental Health Week (7 – 13 Feb), South African-born actor, producer, drama teacher, and now first-time author, Marlisa Doubell, has launched a children’s book intended to help improve mental health in young kids. The book is titled ‘Ms Mol’s Favourite Things’ (for ages 2-7yrs).
After Doubell and her family repatriated to the UK mid pandemic, she noticed a drastic drop in her niece’s happiness levels when chatting to them over the phone. She believed this was due to lockdown-related factors and that it would likely be affecting all children in some way. As a mom herself, she decided to do something about it.
“Kids are simple little creatures, they just need to feel secure in their world to grow, develop and learn. They do this through play and exploration, and a lot of this was taken away from them overnight. This age group is too young to understand why grownups around them are stressed or anxious but may still absorb these negative emotions. This book aims to uplift our little ones and uses a very simple prompt to help trigger joy,’’ says Doubell.
‘Ms Mol’s Favourite Things’ follows the journey of Ms Mol, a friendly and relatable young character who shares all her favourite things with the readers, like grasshoppers and butterflies, rainbows, baking yummy treats, painting, and more. She then encourages the young reader to engage with her by asking if they like these things too. Repetition is used throughout the book to add a sense of playfulness. At the end of the book, Ms Mol includes a page for the kids to write a list of their own favourite things. ‘’One of the easiest ways to engage with a young child is to ask them what their favourite thing is. You can see their little face instantly light up when they tell you,’’ says Doubell.
Rise in Covid-induced PTSD among very young children
According to Child Development Specialist, Kathy Rautenbach, it’s noticeably clear that there has been a rise in Covid-induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among very young children, with research showing that the biggest impact fell on the most vulnerable, 6 years and younger. Rautenbach recently wrote a peer-reviewed paper on the cost of covid on young children’s mental health, with the subtitle ‘Averting the next tidal wave.’ “Young children take on the emotional texture of their environment and are unable to adequately express the fear-based anxiety they may be feeling. It’s important for parents to be aware of this, and to know that a great way to help little ones with anxiety is to motivate positive thought,” she says.
Doubell says that Ms Mol asking the young reader to write down their favourite things, is similar to compiling a ‘gratitude list’, which is a common mental health task set by life coaches and therapists. ‘Focusing on what brings joy and gratitude is proven to raise your vibration. This is why it’s such an effective tool to help caregivers engage with children and elevate mood,’’ she says.
Since the soft launch of the book in December 2021, ‘Ms Mol’s Favourite Things’ has received positive response from children, parents, and educators too.
One parent said “ Ms Mol is a sweet, engaging character and the illustrations are lovely. My kids had enormous fun writing out their favourite things.”
Doubell is currently working on the next few books in the Ms Mol book series, to include Ms Mol’s favourite games, her favourite foods, favourite animals, and more.