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Okotoks artist illustrates book to help sensitive children

Book aimed at equipping children and parents to cope with sensitivity and anxiety

An Okotoks artist has illustrated a children's book about learning to cope with emotional struggles.

Jennifer Stables has teamed up with author Tina Parsons and aromatherapist Denise Watson, and has created the illustrations for Darwin Dragonfly and the Sensitive Bee.

“The book is meant to serve as a guide for parents of children who might be sensitive, but it’s also got a lot of tools you can use as an adult as well,” Stables said.

The book features a bee named Rowan who is stressed out about going to a birthday party, and the titular Darwin Dragonfly helps him learn to cope.

Stables’ credited her own past as a sensitive child as helping her bring Rowan to life.

“As I was illustrating it, I really had this sense of empathy for him," she said.  "And just sort of was able to put my own emotions into that character as I created him.”

The children’s book features a 20 page story, sized to be digestible for a young reader, Stables added, but that is followed by 10 pages with resources to help parents recognize if their child is having trouble, and to help them cope with anxieties and develop healthy habits. 

This includes information ranging from nutrition to learning to set healthy boundaries.

This will be the second collaboration between Stables and Parsons detailing the personal development of Darwin, the first being a book about mindfulness.

Stables and Parsons previously published Darwin Dragonfly Learns the Secret to Mindfulness, where the titular character learned to self-regulate manage strong emotions. Now, Darwin in turn helps Rowan, the sensitive bee, with his troubles.

“It’s always an honour working with (Parsons), she always comes from a really genuine place of wanting to share wellness,” Stables said.

Parsons, a Calgary psychologist practising for nearly 25 years, said this new book is a response to a trend she’s seeing.

“You start to see a trend in the patients you see. I see lots of anxious children and that seems to be increasing lately,” Parsons said. “So I thought, it would be great to have a book like this, I haven’t seen one.

“When you need it most is when you get the most creative, and it would be great for parents to have a resource like this to read to their children and show to their children.”

She credited her collaborators for their part in that creativity.

“Jenny is the one who really brings the book to life with the beautiful illustrations,” Parsons said. “Denise came in with the idea of essential oils.

"I think that’s so helpful, because sensitive children tend to have a sense of smell that’s highly aware.”

This would naturally pair with techniques she teaches in her practice such as mindfulness, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

For Watson, a National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA)-certified aromatherapist, the proper use of essential oils can make a real difference.

“Aromatherapy works on many levels, including the physical chemical effect the oils have on the brain,” Watson, now residing in Australia, said in an email statement. 

Deeply inhaling essential oils has an immediate impact on the limbic system in the brain, she said, where our behaviour and emotional responses are stored.

The need to provide parents with a credible resource was important for Watson, who added the NAHA is recognized worldwide with the highest professional standards for aromatherapy.

She hopes her contribution to the book will help parents understand how to use aromatherapy positively to help their child work through issues.

“Working with essential oils and children creates a tool for parents to help their child work through emotions without having to put words to them that they don’t understand," she added.

The book’s resources include activities for parents and children to work through using essential oils, and recommends certain blends for various situations.

Both in painting and sculpture, Stables’ work often centres on animals, and said she drew on her fondness of insects for the book.

While teaching Grades 1-2 for the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) in the mid-2000s, Stables recalled a project to teach her students about a new insect each day. She continues to teach Grades K-12 as an artist in residence for the CBE.

The project even taught her new things.

One such fact, she exclaimed, was the leafcutter ant not actually eating leaves, but rather cutting them to cultivate a fungus for food.

“Whenever I learn about insects, I find them mind blowing. I love it," Stables said.

“I think a book like this really kind of gives those children a little bit of a voice. Because even speaking up to say that you need help is not something that a lot of sensitive kids might feel comfortable doing.

“Children are learning. They’re learning about their emotions, about who they are, there’s a lot going on in young kids.”

Darwin Dragonfly and the Sensitive Bee is expected to be for sale by mid-May.

It will be available for purchase at the Okotoks Art Gallery, Lineham House Galleries, and Loop Kids Shop in Okotoks as well as at https://shop.jennydaledesigns.com


Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and OkotoksToday.ca
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