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How This Book Can Help Parents Comfort Their Kids Experiencing Anxieties And Stress
PHOTO BY Courtesy of MAGIS Creative Spaces / Arli Pagaduan & Rachelle Jose
  • Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of life for mental health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    At these times, children and adolescents experience a rapid growth and development in their brain. They acquire cognitive and social-emotional skills that shape their future mental health and are important for assuming adult roles in society.

    Parents play a big role in shaping their offsprings' mental health because the quality of the environment where children and adolescents grow up greatly affects their well-being and development.

    The WHO enumerates the factors that increase the risk of mental health illnesses in children and adolescents: early negative experiences in homes, schools, or digital spaces, such as exposure to violence; the mental illness of a parent or other caregiver; bullying; and poverty.

    How parents can help their kids

    There are ways that you can do to raise mentally strong children (read here). There are also ways that can be beneficial to the mental health of both parents and children. One such way is through the expressive arts.

    Dr. Gina Alfonso witnessed, while working as a trainer and mental health clinician at Save the Children International, how parents, teachers, and caregivers used her expressive arts programs to help children living in the midst of war or recovering from displacement due to natural disasters or political violence.

    As Dr. Alfonso listened to these children’s stories herself and shared her own experiences from the Philippines, she saw how surprised the children were that there were others like them in faraway places.


    This was how she realized that children in the midst of crises tend to believe they are alone in their pain, which in reality is not the case.

    Dr. Alfonso then put up MAGIS Creative Spaces, a social enterprise that specializes in the use of the expressive arts in therapy and psychosocial support services for individuals and organizations.

    MAGIS Creative Spaces recently launched the children’s book series on mental health called  AHA! Stories. It aims to comfort children through their anxieties and guide their trusted adults in accompanying them through painful experiences.

    AHA! Stories is drawn from children’s real-life resilience stories from around the world. It is sharing narratives of healing and growth.

    “MAGIS Creative Spaces created AHA! Stories for children and adults,” Alfonso said in a statement.

    “For children, AHA! Stories aims to communicate that they are not alone—that there are those in similar situations in other places around the globe who can get through hard situations, and they can count on creative and compassionate companions in life to get them through hard times.”

    She added, “The hope of AHA! Stories is to tell resilience stories from different places around the world to help children discover, when they are feeling down, that they are part of a larger community of other children who have gotten through tough times with their courage and creativity.”

    For the grown-ups in these children’s lives, Dr. Alfonso created AHA! Stories to build a community of adults who care for children and wish to publish their own stories about facing hardships through the healing power of the expressive arts.

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    Expressive arts therapy uses visual art, music, dance, drama, and other forms of creative expression to help both children and adults process difficult emotions and create a change in behavior or thought. This is different from art therapy, which uses only one form of art.

    Children from various schools, such as The Learning Child School in Muntinlupa, attended the book launch. A young author named X.G. Antazo also joined in the celebration.

    Children's book series on mental health

    Ang mga Alon sa Amin (The Waves Nearby) is the first in the AHA! Stories series. It is a bilingual book in Filipino and English inspired by the resilience of the Tagbanua community from Sitio Alulad in Culion town, Palawan. Their community was badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

    Dr. Alfonso wrote the book, along with Rainey S. Dolatre and Coleen Ramirez-Panahon, while Ianthe Pimentel created the illustrations.

    Ang mga Alon sa Amin tells the story of Mario, a Tagbanua child who lives near the seashore. After a super typhoon ravages his community, he develops a fear of the waves and avoids the outside as much as he can. It is only when he and his community turn to their traditional songs and dances that he learns to process his anxiety and heal from his pain.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of MAGIS Creative Spaces / Arli Pagaduan & Rachelle Jose
    At the end of the book, readers will find expressive arts activities that adults can use to talk about the story with their children and to teach them how to manage their own stress.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of MAGIS Creative Spaces / Arli Pagaduan & Rachelle Jose

    Dr. Alfonso also hopes to use a portion of the proceeds from book sales to rebuild a classroom that had provided shelter for the Tagbanua community during Yolanda. This same classroom was depicted in her upcoming book.

    Ang mga Alon sa Amin is only one of six children’s books from AHA! Stories. In the works are stories from Haiti, El Salvador, China, Uganda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Just like the Philippine book, there will be expressive arts activities at the end of each story that adults can use to help children build resilience in times of stress and adversity. There are also more tales to come after the release of all six books.

    “All these books are meant to highlight the arts and play, and, most particularly, how the arts as a way of life and in its various forms can ignite a sense of agency in children,” said Dr. Alfonso.

    “These stories illustrate the simple yet potent power of the arts to help children cope and come in touch with their capacity to rise above their sorrow, fear, or grief in the direst of situations, and ultimately experience a sense of safety and hope.”

    (Ang mga Alon sa Amin is available for purchase through bit.ly/ahapreorder-alonAHA! You can also visit magiscreative.net or contact MAGIS Creative Spaces at bookings.magis@gmail.com, as well as Facebook and Instagram as @ahastoriesph.)

    Read here on why read-aloud sessions are a must for our child's daily routine.

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