Thanks to Twigtale for providing me with the code for a free custom book.
For the last few years my family has been searching for a new home. Several times a month we would hone in on a prospect and go to an open house. W, my 5-year-old son, became an expert at looking at houses and has charmed many real estate agents with his thoughtful questions about neighborhoods.
As we searched, we kept in mind our needs list and our wish list. We needed a home in a great school district. We needed a home near public transportation. We hoped for a home with more than one bathroom. And W, for whatever reason, really wanted to live in a neighborhood where he could be in charge of a garbage can with wheels.
When we finally found our next home, we were all thrilled. Suddenly the thing we had been dreaming of for so very long had come true. I was expecting W to be soaring with elation and giddiness, but his reaction surprised me.
W was suddenly faced with a bunch of unknowns: the tasks of packing and moving, relocating to a different neighborhood, discussions of attending a new school. Things went from abstract to actual, and his usual exuberance toned down significantly.
We think our kids are able to bounce back and rebound to news easily, but sometimes they need help and guidance. Since we are big readers and cuddle up with a story every night, I decided to create a story about our move to help make the mental transition easier.
Twigtale is an easy-to-navigate free app that lets you create a personalized digital (or physical) book. What makes it especially great is that it is focused on helping children with transitions. Over a dozen child development experts have outlined story-lines for nearly 30 different scenarios in a child’s life: a new sibling, the death of a pet, a sick family member, bullying, separation anxiety … and you have the ability to add in your own personal details using the app’s templates.
When I first looked at the “My Family Is Moving” story outline for W, I hesitated because I worried it would be too young for him. But then as I was making my personal edits to each page, it dawned on me that it was actually perfect for his age. For an early reader, a simple story is ideal, and I hoped he would take even more ownership over the concept if he was able to read the words himself.
Customizing the text to make the story work for a kid who lives with his single mom and grandmother was as simple as typing the words, “Mama and Lolly.” I appreciated how much of the text was able to be edited. When it came to the actual story of moving, I didn’t touch a thing because, wow, it presented a concept that I hadn’t even considered.
I took great care in selecting and uploading images from W’s old bedroom and favorite spaces from our old home. (I have my own photos from different childhood bedrooms that I still fondly look back on.)
Suddenly, I realized this book was going to act as a sort of archive of his life in a home he lived in for four years.
Once I finished creating the book, I reviewed the proof for anything I wanted to update. (Seeing the book in the proof format did make me wish there were more design and format options. I would have liked to have been able to set the color of each page or move photos around, but that’s just my design-savvy side coming out.)
A few hours after I created the book, W walked through the living room of our old house as I was in the middle of packing up some books. He heaved a big sigh and said, “I’m really going to miss our refrigerator.” I looked up at him and he continued to tell me all of the things he was going to miss about our old house. He seemed to feel guilty for feeling sad.
I patted the floor and invited him to sit next to me, then I reached over to grab my iPad. I told him I had a story to read him about our house. “Which one?” he whimpered. I told him both of them.
When I opened the book on the iPad, he smiled. His photo was on the front page of the story and he was able to read, “W Is Moving!” He used his finger to turn the page, and together we read the story of our move. The concept in the Twigtale book that was so helpful to us (and one I never would have grasped without the help of one of their experts), was that moving brings up both happy and sad feelings. That duality of emotions is not always familiar or comfortable. In reading the story, I was able to articulate that having both feelings is normal and OK.
I was so happy with how relieved the “We Are Moving” story (and our family pictures) made W that I decided to also order a printed version. It will be the first piece of mail W gets at our new house!
As parents, we always think we have the answers or are expected to have the answers. It’s nice to know that for a multitude of life’s scenarios, someone else has guidance. Twigtale was simple to create, affordable (they let you create the first digital book for free!), and most importantly — helpful to my family.
Images courtesy of Dresden ShumakerMore On