Family therapist and counselor, Jenny Delacruz, began writing children’s books when she found that there was a lack of diversity in many popular stories for kids. When the coronavirus hit, one of her sons awoke in the middle of the night. Jenny could see that he was distraught, grieving even. She decided to write her second book for children about these big, important, and sometimes scary emotions that kids feel. Her book comes not a moment too soon, as many parents are at home with their worried children and in many cases, even taking on the task of homeschooling themselves.
Jenny currently practices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she resides with her husband and two young boys. For more information about Jenny’s books, you can visit her website here. You can also find more content by Jenny on her YouTube channel here. Her new book, Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? will be available on June 1st.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m a licensed professional counselor and children’s book writer. As a counselor, I specialize in working with children and families, as well as individuals who struggle with past trauma, anxiety, and depression – I’ve done this for about 15 years.
How did you decide on your career path?
Well as a first-generation American, my family is from Haiti, I was encouraged to pursue the ‘American dream’ and become a doctor or a lawyer but after taking an intro to psychology class my freshman year, I knew that I was destined to be a mental health counselor.
What inspired you to write your first children's book, Fridays with Ms. Mélange: Haiti?
When my son turned 5, I searched for a book to teach him about the history of Haiti and I was frustrated when I could not find a children’s book that broke it down. I researched everywhere and could only find books about the culture. The ones that did address history were chapter books for young adults. Then my husband encouraged me to write one and the rest is history. At the end of the book, there are questions to promote critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence.
Can you briefly describe what Momma, Can I Sleep with you Tonight? is about?
It’s about a mom talking to her child about very real fears and big feelings surrounding COVID-19. At the end of the book, I provide parents with information about the 5 stages of grief and how to instill peace and safety in your home which is really important during this time. The stages of grief are denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?
As a mom of two boys, I could not help but notice how COVID-19 has changed the nature of my career. Where I am now providing counseling through the day though chat sessions to keep my clients’ information confidential while homeschooling. I also noticed how many are sadly grieving the loss of loved ones while the majority of us are experiencing the loss of normalcy in our lives. It’s important to know that kids deal with the stages of loss differently than we do. In fact, my youngest son was having difficulty sleeping one night woke me up at 3 am to talk about his feelings. Of course, afterward, he fell right back to sleep and I was wide awake so I grabbed my phone and stayed up and wrote this book. I was pretty much done when the sun came up. So, I in a way, I thank my son for this next book.
How do you comfort your children when they're afraid?
When kids are afraid, we can help them by talking about these fears and asking them questions like, what about this is the scariest for you? When we are too quick to lecture, we totally miss them. A deeper understanding helps us to address their fears head-on.
What advice can you give to parents who are struggling to discuss COVID-19 with their children?
They are 3 tips I would provide:
Encourage your child to draw their feelings and describe what's going on.
Validate their feelings by admitting that I feel frustrated too. This will allow them to feel like they are not alone and can come to you to express more of these thoughts and feelings. It creates a safe place
Give them an opportunity to release their anger. For example, punching a pillow or getting a bowl and filling it with rice so that they can squeeze it. This will help calm their central nervous system.
Can you talk about your YouTube channel? What has the reaction been like to your story time videos?
Sure. It’s called StorytimeWithMsMelange, it’s a channel where diverse children’s picture books are read aloud. As a mom of two biracial boys, it’s important for me to talk about their Filipino and Haitian heritage, while sharing books about the culture and history of others as well as other important issues. Each story ends with a question to promote critical thinking skills.
I noticed more traffic to my channel in response to social distancing, parents are looking for additional tools to promote literacy while homeschooling.
Are you working on another book or projects?
Yes, I’m currently working on the 2nd book of the series Fridays with Ms. Mélange: Haiti. My aim is to help children to grow and interest in world history. My long-term vision is to highlight various countries and support underserved children in those countries by donating a portion of the proceeds of my book's sales.
"I just want to tell myself that COVID-19 is not real!
Trust me son, I do too."
How do you talk to your child about their very real fears? How do you make it better when the world changes into something unrecognizable? When her child can’t sleep and things look bleak, this Momma knows exactly what to do.
Children’s author Jenny Delacruz, author of the Fridays With Ms. Mélange series, tackles the tough topics of talking to your kids about COVID-19 while calming any panic or fear. Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? offers a compassionate look at social distancing and how it affects our children.