© Michelle Chan
May has a special place in my heart, as it is both Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. With all that has been happening in the United States and around the world lately, I purposely chose May to publish my first children's book. During this special month, I wanted to gift others a book that touches on both of these topics. So please, join me in celebrating the month of May by reading this book with me and sharing it with others who may benefit from hearing its messages!
When I was just starting in my therapy career as a new graduate straight out of my masters program, I worked for a non-profit agency. The non-profit agency specialized in the care of children, teens, and their families. I found myself repeatedly talking to clients about the need to set boundaries. It was through these constant discussions that I realized how many children and teens were missing these important life lessons.
One day, while I was spending quality time alone with my God-daughter, we had a talk during our car ride. She was in elementary school at the time, and I found myself trying to teach her about boundaries in a way that she could understand and wouldn't potentially scare her. So, I used the analogy of an invisible bubble. We talked about how there was a bubble around her. That the bubble’s size changed depending on where she was at, who she was with, and what she felt inside. She was definitely a smart cookie, because even as a young child, she was able to understand how the bubble was meant to protect her and let her know when she should ask for help!
While that conversation happened quite a few years ago, and my God-daughter is now a teen, our conversation about the bubble stuck with me. So last year, when the memory of this conversation popped up in my mind (again), I again wished how more children could be taught this same message. I tried looking online for a book that talked about setting boundaries in this way for my young clients, but no matter how much I searched, I just couldn’t find it. And slowly, my wish of spreading this message led me to the idea of writing a children’s book myself. I wanted to create a story that was not only fun to read and enticing to look at, but also shared some important messages.
Details, Details, Details
"My Invisible Bubble" is a 8”x10” rhyming children’s book with illustrations that are beautifully detailed and colored. The main character in the book is an Asian American little girl, and she is surrounded by characters of different ethnicities. It was important for me that this book feel inclusive and representative of the wonderful world we live in. As many of us know, representation is so important, especially for young children.
Throughout the book, the little girl wears many different outfits, so that young children know that there are many aspects and dimensions to each of them, and that it is more than okay to show that to the world!
This book was born out of a labor of love and a deep desire to make sure that as many children as possible hear the messages this story has to share. This story is a wonderful way for parents, caregivers, teachers, and/or therapists to start a conversation with children about identifying their feelings, learning to trust their own instincts, expressing their needs, and setting healthy boundaries with others.
As many of us know, being able to set boundaries with others is an important way of being self-aware and for self-protection.
This is a great book to be read again and again by caregivers to young children, to allow them an “in” to having ongoing conversations about boundaries.
At the core of it all, it is to help children build a foundation in which they know their feelings are valid, and what they need to feel safe should be respected. May this also be a reminder to adults and caregivers that children’s needs should be taken into great consideration and care.
"I have an invisible bubble around me;
It protects me wherever I go.
Even though you can't see it,
It is always there, I know."
-Michelle Chan, LMFT
© Michelle Chan
What the month of May represents hit close to home and is my heart and soul. If you didn't know already, May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage month as well as Mental Health Awareness month. In the midst of COVID-19, what May represents seem more important than ever before, at least to me and the communities that I'm a part of.
I have been deeply saddened by what I have heard and read, on the news and in social media, about the mistreatment and abuse of people of Asian descent. I have heard loved ones express increasing concern about their safety as they go about their daily lives (e.g. getting groceries, mailing things at the post office, being at work). Quite a few friends who are in the medical field have shared with me that they are purposely wearing their scrubs to run errands, in the hopes that it serves as a protective factor.
I know they're not alone.
Many people of Asian descent across the country, and the world, are being more cautious of where they go to get their groceries and run their errands. And not just because of concerns about COVID-19. Many have become hypervigilant when they go out, taking into consideration what neighborhoods certain places are located, looking to see who they're surrounded by, trying not to speak in any native tongues to loved ones and family members when others are around, etc.
Blame is a dangerous and deadly game. No matter what the issue at hand is, blaming only leads to division among us, with no "winner" at the end. It only delays solutions from being found, and deprives us of the sense of support and community we all long for.
If you are feeling as though you are more anxious or on-edge, experiencing nightmares, having flashbacks of other traumatic experiences, being more cautious or hypervigilant, feeling scared for the safety of you and your loved ones... Know that you're not alone in having these experiences. You are not "crazy." Our physical environment has a very real and direct impact on our mental well-being.
Take notice and acknowledge these emotions and things you're experiencing. Engage in activities to help you release some of the nervous energy (e.g. meditation, exercise, art, etc). Reach out to loved ones. They may need you just as much as you need them. And of course, therapy is always an option worth exploring during this extremely challenging time. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health if you want to "be okay" through all of this.
"The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you." - Celeste Ng
© Michelle Chan
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a showing of the documentary, "The Chinese Exclusion Act," as a part of the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival in honor of it being AAPI Heritage Month. As a second generation Chinese American, much like most minorities in the U.S., my education in the public school system only allowed me to learn about history in a very linear manner, one that did not adequately reflect the challenges and experiences of minorities.