The state of children’s mental health has been a growing concern in recent years and it is unsurprising that the pandemic’s continuing effects have seen the problem grow even worse.

Hansa Pankhania, who founded AUM Wellbeing Consultancy, has plenty of experience as a corporate wellbeing expert, speaker and author but it’s not just adults that she feels could benefit from her skills.

“For a few years, I have been concerned about the rising levels of stress and anxiety in children and young people. Just like all life skills, it is imperative for children to have the skills to overcome stress, otherwise it builds up and causes mental health issues in later life,” she writes on her company’s blog.

“My forte is to pass on simple natural techniques that do not cost anything and are easy to integrate into everyday life.”

Her concern has led her to publish a children’s picture book called Chakraji and Calm Callum (Sohum Publications, £7.99).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chakrajicallum.jpg

Illustrated by Anne-Marie Sonneveld, it is the first in a planned series of six titles that incorporates these “natural techniques” in imaginative storytelling to introduce mini readers to mindfulness and stress relief techniques.

Integrating Eastern and Western influences, the short tale essentially presents a breathing exercise and affirmation. But encapsulating it in a story of a young boy upset by his parents arguing, complete with magical flamingo ride to see the mystical maternal Chakraji seated on a rainbow, enables parents to introduce these ideas and techniques in a less direct manner. Accompanying Callum on his colourful journey allows for discussion of feelings in the third person.

The eldest two minis are very used to joining in with actions suggested by a book and reenacting the story in different ways (see Everybunny Dance! and A Busy Day for Birds), so no verbal prompting was needed to get them to copy the instructions Callum is given by Chakraji, as soon as I put my palm on my tummy they started physically following along too. And, in the couple of days after our initial reading, my six year old was also keen to repeat the magic words the flamingo teaches Callum “to make you feel happy inside” to prove to me she remembered them.

Anything that might help young people’s resilience during these strange times is definitely worth embracing and, even if it’s not retained and just works when you’re reading it, a calming story for bedtime is always welcomed too.

Today is the start of Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (February 1-7). This year’s theme is Express Yourself.
And it’s also National Storytelling Week 2021 (January 30 – February 6).