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Mental Health Matters for Kids, Too

Kids are so resilient, and most bounce back from physical, mental, and emotional setbacks on a daily basis.

My own two kids are great reminders of this: my 5-year-old broke his wrist last week and is already healing like a bionic human. My 8-going-on-45-year-old son constantly impresses me with how he shakes off bullying on the sports field or after a fight with a friend. Or how both of them can coach me through rough patches of my own. During a recent "moment" I had in front of them, they encouraged me with, "Mom, take deep breaths!" "Yeah, pretend like you're blowing out birthday candles!" Kids are hugely emotional creatures, infused with a sagacity that often surprises.

But right now, there is too much on their shoulders. After enduring half a year (plus) of lockdown and social isolation, the seams on their lives are starting to strain. Even those kids who are lucky enough to go back to school this September are face-to-face with the lasting effects of the pandemic. Their schools and towns look different, their friend relationships may have changed, and their grown-ups seem world-weary and anxious. And - it physically hurts to think about it - there are so many children for whom home is not their safest place, but is the only place where they must be right now.

Most of you know I'm a freelance children's book editor, but I'm not sure show many know that for the past 18 months I've also been building a publishing program(me) of mental health and wellbeing children's books for Trigger Publishing. The imprint is called Upside Down Books and we launched this past January with 15 picture books, activity books, and guided journals, all with a focus on opening up about mental health issues and feelings.

I am the commissioning/acquiring editor for the children's list, using my knowledge of the UK/EU and US markets to create books that resonate globally. We have our 2021 list set and are now planning for 2022. Our books, unfortunately, are now more important than ever.

Upside Down's list has tackled difficult and emotional subjects such as anxiety, grief, bullying, and depression. We've published books that help a child develop a vocabulary around their feelings. And we've been sure to deliver books on self-esteem & positivity, resilience, and meditation, too.

Our books are concerned with any topic that touches upon the mental, social, and emotional state of children. And the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Also, the impact this long-term project has had on my own life has been enormous - working on these books has improved my own sensitivity and emotional intelligence, especially with my children.

At this crucial and bizarre moment in our lives, I am specifically looking to commission books that will help bolster the mental wellness of children, as we continue to cope with the pandemic and finally come out the other side. My hope is always that our books will help kids develop the right language to identify and understand what they might be feeling, and then spark a discussion between them and their trusted grown-up (parent, carer, grandparent, teacher, librarian). My motivation, right now, is unwavering.

I see Upside Down Books as companion pieces to a child’s life, which give them the right tools to carry through their days and throughout their lives, allowing them to deal with crises on their own and/or with help. My hope is that our young readers will grow into well-adjusted adults and develop into an empathetic generation – which will just make the world a better place!

If you have a project you think might be right for Upside Down Books, the submission guidelines are here.

Wherever you are and whatever your frame of mind, I wish you and your family the best.

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