There are some moments in life which are calling out for a personalised book experience – even though I could count on one hand the number of such books I’ve ‘approved of’ over the years! I recently came across the My Big Moments personalised books and they blow all stereotypes of personalised books out of the water. They are beautifully designed, written with sensitivity and sophistication, explore big topics in an age appropriate way and are engaging, entertaining and thought provoking. There are currently titles on grief and loss, starting school, going to the hospital, preparing for a new sibling and building resilience.
I’ve recently had a look at the starting school one as we are entering that territory with alarming speed aren’t we? It would make the perfect Christmas gift for a little person about to embark on that journey. You can see all my starting school books here.
I asked co-founder Hannah Davison to explain the concept behind the My Big Moments books.
PERSONALISED KIDS’ BOOKS TEACHING THE VALUE OF VULNERABILITY
Guest post by Hannah Davison
It was a shared longing to be wrapped in the support of a ‘village’ that drove the impetus for creating My Big Moments, a range of personalised kids’ books ‘helping little people through big moments’.
‘It takes a village to raise a child’, yet our society doesn’t operate this way. Typically, bringing up children in nuclear families with both parents working, children entering childcare early and sporadic contact with extended family. It’s far from the tribal structure that supported human evolution for millennia.
Parents, particularly mothers, are juggling hefty responsibilities including, caregiving and providing emotional support, managing household logistics and contributing financially. For many, this prompts feelings of isolation, inadequacy and overwhelm. This was certainly my experience and the experience of friend, and business partner, Flicka Williams.
We’re all just ‘winging it’
In October 2016, we had a brutally honest conversation about how we were coping (or rather, crying in the laundry and not coping) with managing our young families. We felt that while nurturing our children was the most important job we had, but it often seemed like we were just ‘winging it’. Where were our elders to support us as we adapted to the demands of this mothering role? At the very least, why didn’t an operators’ manual pop out with the placenta?!
Our aim was two-fold; we wanted to make the tricky job of parenting a little bit easier and also provide resources for families that encouraged kids’ emotional and psychological development.
My Big Moments launched in November 2019. It was those brutally honest conversations that inspired what became an award-winning children’s book initiative. My Big Moments is a range of personalised picture books written in consultation with child development experts that help children through challenging events they face in early life. The books can be personalised and ordered in hardcover, softcover and eBook through the website.
Raising resilient families
For a child, every new milestone or event has magnitude, their frame of reference for life’s experience is limited to the few years they’ve spent living it. While it’s almost impossible for us to relate to from our wider perspective, it’s these early experiences that are shaping their lives.
The 1990s is known as the decade of the brain when neuroscience research brought about illuminating understanding around brain development. Professionals and parents could then make conscious choices around working with children that best supported healthy physical, psychological and emotional development.
This creates an interesting tension for many of us who didn’t grow up in environments where parenting strategies were influenced by neuroscience findings. Nathan Wallis, neuroscience educator and expert consultant for My Big Moments comments, “There’s a bit of a ‘harden up’ approach to Kiwi culture, but research tells us that people who have to just ‘harden up’ are actually less resilient than those who are allowed to properly feel and process their emotions.” Seeing vulnerability as a weakness is not just outdated, it’s proven inaccurate. Vulnerability forms the foundation of resilience.
As children of the ‘harden up’ approach, the full expression and processing of our own emotions is a concept that has been undesirable, confronting and unfamiliar. A lot of the conversation we have with our My Big Moments audience is around understanding and developing our own resilient traits by un-learning early childhood conditioning.
To be able to parent our own children in a conscious way, we may need to recondition ourselves with attitudes of self-compassion, patience and acceptance. When we can embrace our own vulnerabilities, give ourselves permission to fully express our emotions and prioritise self-care, we develop the capabilities to role-model these resilient-building tendencies to our children.
Whilst our concept is based on books that help families, a large part of what we do is provide free resources through social media that directly help mums, dads and caregivers with their own appreciation of vulnerability and resilience. To be able to look after our kids well, first, we have to learn how to look after ourselves.
The power of storytime
As word spread, parents came to us asking to write about specific topics. Most commonly, the subject of child anxiety was raised. We focussed on writing a story that would help families raise resilient kids by giving them tools to handle the myriad anxiety-inducing pressures in their modern world. Our fifth title, ‘That’s Not the Plan’, launched 19th November 2020.
Resiliency in kids is primarily determined by strong emotional connections with parents and caregivers, in an environment that feels safe and secure. That quiet storytime, when parent and child sit together creates the perfect situation for building those strong, secure connections. By exploring a story’s ideas and discussing how to handle their own situations, kids learn that when they need somewhere reliable to go to for help and support, that place is with their parents.
There are currently five titles in the My Big Moments range — Ready for School (getting ready to start school), The Hospital Visit (preparing for hospital trips or medical procedures), Goodbye Comet (handling grief and loss), Baby on the Way (preparing for a new sibling) and, That’s Not the Plan, (building resilience).
Hannah Davison is the author and co-founder of My Big Moments, a personalised picture book range created to help children cope with challenging events they face in early life.