Birdie is back to help children cope with their coronavirus feelings and fears
The adventures of Birdie, a plucky and resilient creation of the Queensland Government, are familiar to many working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings. Birdie and her friends have helped to guide children through bushfires, cyclones, droughts, floods and many other challenging times.
Birdie is now back, to help children to manage their feelings and fears, in a new story all about COVID-19 called Birdie and the Virus. The book is the latest addition to the Australian-first “Birdie’s Tree” series of illustrated story books created by Children’s Health Queensland to help young children process their emotions during, and after, a natural disaster or unusual event.
Birdie and the Virus follows Birdie and her friend, Mr Frog, as they face the challenges of a virus spreading in their community. After Mr Frog becomes sick, the book takes children on a journey of recovery from testing for the virus to treatment, while reinforcing the importance of staying home, hand washing and keeping connected with friends during isolation.
Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the book was an important tool to help support the youngest Queenslanders during this unprecedented time.
The pandemic, Mr Miles said, has forced major changes to the way of life for individuals, which is unlike anything families have experienced before. As such, children may be confused or struggling with changes to their daily routines and family lives.
“Whether you’re a health professional, early childhood educator, parent or carer, this book is a useful tool to help connect with young children about COVID-19,” he added.
Dr Andrea Baldwin, co-author of the books, and Senior Psychologist with Children’s Health Queensland, said the limited understanding of the events happening around them could cause young children more anxiety than older children or adults.
“Young children feel secure when their world is ordered and predictable. They need that sense of security to explore and learn, grow and develop in healthy ways. Disruption and uncertainty make it hard for families to maintain routines and help children feel that the world makes sense,” Dr Baldwin added.
The emotions of caring adults during this time, she continued, also play a role.
“When the family is experiencing stresses like job insecurity, financial worries or family members becoming ill, young children will be affected at a crucial stage of brain development. This can have long-term as well as immediate impacts on their emotional wellbeing.”
“Every child is different. One child may cope quite easily with the pandemic, while another will need reassurance, age-appropriate answers to their questions, and lots of support. Reading a story like Birdie and the Virus with a caring adult can help a young child work through the distressing experiences and big feelings of these difficult times.”
Birdie and the Virus was developed by the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, part of Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, and can be read online, for free, in a variety of community languages.
An animated reading of the book, including a handwashing song, may be accessed here.
The Birdie’s Tree website contains all the Birdie stories, as well as interactive games for children, and information sheets for parents, carers and educators.