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The little ones are not alright: What being a parent taught me about childhood anxiety

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In 2018, my family relocated across the country because of my husband’s job. Our toddler was already having a hard time with daddy “appearing and disappearing” because of his job as a pilot and his world started crumbling even faster as we got ready to move. He started acting up and getting upset very easily. The more advanced we were with packing, the more upset he would get. The biggest challenge was at pre-school, where I kept getting notifications of him acting up almost on a daily basis. The school was very aware of our situation, but they lacked the knowledge, or desire, to accommodate his needs.

I kept insisting on his behavior being situational and not just “a personality thing,” and we eventually managed to find professional help. Turns out, my maternal instinct was right. We were given tools to work on with him and with time, and a very nurturing environment in our new city, he started improving. I had already learned my first lessons: childhood anxiety is very real and many people tend to brush it off to the side as if these weren't really our kids.

Fast forward to last year, when I met fellow parent Robby LeDoux through some volunteer work we both do. I shared my story with him and told him I had this idea to help families going through a similar situation. Through the ordeal, I had looked for resources we could use, but couldn’t find much out there so I knew how tough it was. The story resonated with him. Childhood anxiety was not something new for him either. He jumped on board right away. As this new project started to take shape, more and more parents started sharing their own experiences with me and I inadvertently learned another lesson: childhood anxiety is way more common and painful than we want to believe, but nobody really talks about it. Do we expect kids to just grow out of it?

The project eventually turned into Perky is A-OK!, an animated series to help kids, through songs and other tools, deal with stress and anxiety in a very uplifting and fun way. We had felt that the conversations and resources around the topic were watered down, possibly because of the adults’ own fears, and we wanted to address the topic honestly.

We hoped to launch at the end of the summer, and then the Covid-19 pandemic happened. All of a sudden, childhood anxiety became front and central (not because it didn’t exist before, but because this new reality has made it impossible for adults to continue ignoring it). The first episode of the series began production a week after the pandemic struck NYC. With limited resources and a race against time, freelancers and family members across the country started working from living rooms, recording voices from their closets and contributing our collective energy towards a common goal. And then we all learned our final lesson: the kids are not and have not been ok, but now it’s out in the open, and we can all rally to turn those unsettling experiences into little personal triumphs.

As for us, we are on a mission to bring Perky is A-OK! to as many children as possible and help them cope with the emotions they are feeling, which can feel very scary to them, and brighten up their world, especially right now. But most of all, we hope it is the beginning of a new kind of conversation around this other epidemic.

You can watch episode one, The cold bug virus, here. Best friends Perky and Rosie use a fun, high-spirited song, the Hello Song, to get out of the doldrums of Covid-19’s social distancing. The video is both informative and entertaining while offering some welcome relief. With childhood anxiety, and anxiety in general, on the rise, we promise to make more episodes, and we promise not to fail our kids.

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