Comforting Anxious Children’s Soothing Story Selection 3
By Janis D. Gioia, MAEd.
Anxious children struggle with the holidays for many reasons:
The hum of activity triggers stress hormones.
They can’t deal with waiting and anticipation.
Changes in routines disturb sleeping, eating and relaxation time.
Too many lights, sounds and smells are overwhelming.
Most people overlook a hidden stressor that causes anxiety: loneliness.
Loneliness caused by anxiety that makes children feel different from other children who thrive on the holiday frenzy.
Loneliness because anxious children can be withdrawn or quiet, or possibly acting out.
And neither internalizing or externalizing behaviors ingratiates them with other children or even adults.
The holidays often leave anxious children, children with mental illness, autism, or any special needs feeling left out, disconnected.
Like they don’t belong.
It’s my CAC Soothing Selection for December.
Like a gentle winter lullaby, Colleen’s rhythmic verse tenderly addresses loneliness and rejection while Mike’s nature scenes calm and comfort.
The story takes place on a beautiful Christmas tree farm where a big pine tree laments that once again, he has not been selected as a family’s Christmas tree.
A caring brown squirrel hears the tree’s cries and invites the woodland animals to share their love for this sweet gentle pine.
The story unfolds in soothing rhymes and sweet illustrations of the forest animals expressing their love for the lonely giant.
I had caught up with the author, Colleen, and her wildlife artist husband, Mike, to get a behind-the-scenes look at this modern day Christmas classic.
“It is important to me to have a message in my books,” Colleen explains.
“I wanted to get across the sadness of being left out and the realization of the other animals that they had never expressed their love for the tree and that they were happy that he had never left (the Christmas tree farm.)”
“I wanted people to take away the thought that they should remember to tell the people around them how much they matter to them. I love the emotional message and how it has touched many people that I have met who say that it is their favorite book.”
Colleen shares that, “I like to tell kids that I “cooked” the idea in my head long before writing it.”
But once she started writing, “It was an amazing experience as it all just came flowing out. I felt like I couldn’t write it fast enough. I wrote on any scrap of paper I could find. I still have a Ziploc bag containing all those sheets.”
Colleen knew she wanted the story to be nature based since her husband Mike, the illustrator, is a wildlife artist.
Born and raised in Michigan, Mike finds inspiration for his art in the beauty outside his doorstep.
The tree farm on the opening pages, Mike reveals “Is actually a tree farm that I used to go to every year with my grandparents. I have such fond memories of it that I had to include it in the book.”
“The tree itself is actually from my imagination after reading Colleen’s text. I got such visual images after reading her text that the images just naturally came.”
In addition, Mike says, “I had fun hiding little things in the image(s) that mean a lot to both of us. The page of the Dad and the two kids is actually me and our twins.”
He continues, “The dog was our beloved Shelby. The painting of the crow is special to both of us because we had a pet crow when we were first married and it reminds us of him. The yellow house near the Tree Farm barn is actually a cheerful farmhouse that my sister used to live in.”
“Much of my inspiration,” Mike concludes, “Comes from fond memories and places I have been.”
Reading A Wish to be a Christmas Tree with your child will probably become a family tradition, and a memory you will treasure for years to come.
For more ideas on helping your anxious child through the season read my recent post “Ways to Help Anxious Children With the Holidays.”
Do you have a favorite calming holiday book? Please share your selections in the comments below.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed Holiday Season,