I am passionate about mental health and emotional intelligence, especially for children. So, it’s with pleasure I’m thrilled to bring this new author interview to you. Katie O’Donoghue is the author of ‘The Little Squirrel Worried’, a picture book for children age 4-8 to help them to overcome anxiety. This is Katie O’Donoghue’s interview.
About Katie O’Donoghue
Tell us a bit about yourself
I have loved everything and anything creative. Since I was a child and would have regularly been found imagining fantastical stories and adventures at school or at home. I think in a way that creativity has continued to stay with me throughout my life. I followed an artistic path and completed a degree in fine art and design. I then went on to do a Masters in Art Psychotherapy and I am currently in the last stages of a PhD in Wellbeing and Heritage at University College London.
I love being around animals and animals in general have regularly inspired my art practice. I myself have two cats, Buzz and Bobby and the dream would be to one day have a small farm with an array of rescue animals at the family home.
Do you use art in your practice as part of the therapy process?
As an Art Psychotherapist, art features throughout my practice. Art Psychotherapy is informed by psychotherapeutic approaches whereby art making is the primary mode for self-exploration. Practice draws on research and theory from the fields of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychology and neuroscience
What would you say is your aesthetic as an author?
Interesting question, I believe my aesthetic is something that Is still developing and also depends on what I’m creating, and what I am trying to convey for that body of work. For example, with The Little Squirrel Who Worried I wanted the illustrations and text to exude warmth and comfort for the reader, but that aesthetic may differ in future works.
What’s your ambiance preference, when writing?
I really enjoy writing at home, sitting in a quiet comfortable space, laptop set up, and a cup of steaming coffee at hand to help fire up the creative juices. I also find that I move in-between writing and illustrating, with each process informing the other.
On Writing The Little Squirrel Who Worried
What inspired you write The Little Squirrel Who Worried?
I was inspired to create the story of Little Squirrel while working for CAMHS in the NHS last year. At the time I was facilitating a supportive parent group for parents whose children had been referred to the service for difficulties with anxiety. Interwoven through the story are the coping skills and strategies I was sharing with parents.
It was October 2020, I was missing family and friends at home in Ireland and I actually began the story with the illustration of the Little Squirrel. I found creating the art, native woodland animals, a way to connect with home. As I painted, I began to feel the characters come into their own and decided I would write a story alongside the illustrations. It became an activity for my own wellbeing and the story inspired the next illustration and so on and so on. It really was such an enjoyable process and it brought me much comfort during challenging times.
Why did you choose to set the story during autumn-winter?
It was October when I wrote the book last year. I believe my autumnal walks in the Essex countryside helped inspire the colour palette of my illustrations and also setting the time of year within the story. Coming from Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland, I have always felt that the natural beauty of the national park was best showcased in Autumn. Nothing is more inspiring than walking in the park on a sunny autumn day surrounded by the stunning array of colours in the trees.
Katie’s Advice For Coping With Anxiety Over The Festive Season
What advice would you give to parents/carers of an anxious child over the festive season?
Christmas though known as a wonderful, exciting and festive holiday can also bring with it stress and anxieties for children and adults alike. With routine out the window, changes to diet, bedtime, social gatherings all these things can trigger feelings of anxiety and worry. Below are my main points to help an anxious child over the holidays:
Communication: This is so important, checking in with your child asking how they are feeling, if there is anything that is worrying them, and if there is coming up with a plan together (make sure to encourage your child to come up with their own solutions too as this is very empowering for a child).
Planning ahead: Where possible keep a child appraised of the activities planned for the day or week ahead. This can help provide a sense of structure and containment for children. It also gives them the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.
Get fresh air: The festive season can involve a lot of sitting about, eating and socialising, remember to make time to get some fresh air and get moving with the children to help release some of those hormones which reduce feelings of anxiety
Leaving the home- If you do have to leave the home for the holidays encourage your child to bring with them objects that make them feel comfortable and safe, this might be a soft blanket, a teddy bear or a favourite book. Bringing a piece of home with you can generate feelings of comfort and safety for your child.
Back To School
Try to maintain routine where possible: We all know routine tends to go out the window this time of year but where possible try to keep some routines, maybe a few days before the end of the holidays return to school bedtimes to help children gradually return to their routines which in turn help to reduce the back to school anxieties.
I hope some of these tips will be of use over the festive season and wish you and your families a very happy holiday!
Did you enjoy Katie’s interview? Do let me know if you would like more author interviews on The Tiger Tales. Please comment below.
The Little Squirrel Who Worried is published by Gill Books available now in hardback at £11.99. ISBN: 9780717192304