Melissa Moses, author of Alex and the Scary Things, offers some insight into why it is important for children to develop the right skills to cope with overwhelming emotions.
According to a study published in December, 2014 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one social or family experience that can lead to traumatic stress and impact their healthy development. These include such childhood experiences as extreme economic hardship, parental divorce/separation, living with someone with a drug or alcohol problem, witnessing or being the victim of neighborhood violence, living with someone who was mentally ill or suicidal, witnessing domestic violence, being treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity, and the death of a parent.
The study found that more than 22 percent of children represented in the survey had two or more of these traumatic childhood experiences. Researchers found that children with two or more adverse experiences were more likely to struggle in school and have a wide range of chronic health problems, including asthma, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and obesity. The study also suggests that training parents, providers, and communities to help children cope with traumatic experiences can help build resiliency, leading to later success despite the obstacles.
After spending two years working with children, adolescents, and families who had experiences trauma, I decided to write Alex and the Scary Things to help kids develop skills to cope with overwhelming emotions. Additionally, practicing the skills in Alex and the Scary Things will help children begin to feel a sense of agency in dealing with the effects of trauma. A strong sense of self-efficacy and self control, as well as encouraging individuals to recognize their accomplishments, helps foster resiliency in the face of trauma. My intention was to create a character with whom a child could identify without having the story feel overly therapeutic. In Alex and the Scary Things, children are taught strategies and skills such as breathing techniques, grounding skills, and emotional expression. My hope is that the story is fun and engaging so that children actually enjoy practicing the skills!
Melissa Moses is an Assistant Psychologist at McLean Hospital. She has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. Melissa has a private practice in Belmont, Massachusetts and specializes in treating survivors of trauma and the treatment of substance use disorders. She also has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. To learn more about Alex and the Scary Things click here.