THERAPIST’S COMIC BOOK ADDRESSES CHILDREN’S CORONAVIRUS ANXIETIES

BY | April 27, 2020

SWAMPSCOTT — When her clients poured out their concerns about coronavirus anxiety and fears plaguing their children, Anna Svetchnikov turned to her own children for help.

Anthony, 7, Adrian, 4, and Apollo, 1, helped their mother write the dialogue and create the illustrations that fill “Awesome Team.” The 28-page comic book juggles humor and kid-oriented drama pitting children heroes against Corona Vera, “the evil queen.”

The book offers examples of patience, kindness, teamwork and coping skills to define “hero behavior” on a scale children can grasp. Embedded in the book’s pages are practical reminders about good hygiene and setting a routine.

“A lot of kids really struggle to set a schedule. It’s important to reinforce hobbies and interests,” she said.

A licensed marriage and family therapist, Svetchnikov is executive director of mental health nonprofit Longwood Care. The Lynn English High School graduate launched her practice in 2016 with help from husband, Michael.

Coronavirus forced Longwood to temporarily shut down its Danvers and Lynnfield offices, but Svetchnikov and 12 clinicians are practicing “telehealth” through virtual online therapy sessions.

In the last month her clients have voiced stress and anxiety surrounding coronavirus isolation requirements and worries about how their children are dealing with weeks — soon to be months — of at-home learning limiting them to drive-by or on-screen visits with friends.

“They’re worried about their health,” she said.

She got interested in creating a coronavirus comic book two weeks ago and jumped into the project with her children last week. The book’s dialogue acknowledges in a child’s voice coronavirus’ threat and lethality and it also emphasizes that everyone brings strengths and weaknesses to the battle against the virus.

It is meant to appeal to young children but Svetchnikov said the book’s “grounding” exercises, coping skills tips, and behavior management chart are practical tools for parents.

“We even wrote a little song,” she said.

Svetchnikov plans to post the comic book in pdf format on Longwood’s website, www.longwoodcare.org, and make it available through Amazon with an emphasis on eventually getting “Awesome Team” into the hands of educators and childcare workers.

Maria del Mar Vazquez, North Shore Community College associate professor of psychology, said Svetchnikov is taking the right approach to helping kids talk about coronavirus.

“With children, you have to find a way into their emotions,” said Vazquez, a mother of two.

Clinginess and inability to sleep are signs children are anxious and Vazquez said parents should strike a balance explaining the pandemic to children.

“Make a basic explanation. It’s a balance of not too much and not too little,” she advised.

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