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Francesca Dall’Ara


Giada Negri

Francesca Dall’Ara Illustrazioni di

Š 2020 Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson S.p.A. Via del Pioppeto 24 38121 TRENTO ITALY Tel. +39 0461 951500 Fax + 39 0461 950698 www.erickson.it www.erickson.international info@erickson.it All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher.


Francesca Dall’Ara A psychologist and psychotherapist, Francesca has been working for the IRCCS Ca’ Granda Hospital Maggiore Policlinico of Milan Foundation since 2005, in the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatric Unit (UONPIA) for Complex Disabilities and Rare Diseases (SDCMR).


Giada Negri After qualifying as a psychologist and psychotherapist, Giada threw herself fully into the world of images by way of illustration and photography. Since 2009, she has been collaborating with national and international publishers, creating children’s books, images for magazines and stationery items. At the same time, she creates works of art on paper that are displayed in various art galleries. Giada is a teacher of illustration at the European Institute of Design. Translated in English by Valentina Sala and George Cates, Norwich, England.

SPECIAL THANKS I really want to thank everyone who contributed to helping this story take off from its humble beginnings. I would start with Antonella Costantino, director of the Neuropsychiatric Unit in which I work, because on a very difficult Monday morning at the end of February, she was the one who asked me to think about a way to tell the children what was happening. She allowed me to transform the sense of anxiety and powerlessness that I was feeling into something useful and creative, initially for myself. Another special thanks goes to all of my colleagues, who have become as passionate as me about the project and kept giving me ideas, without which Violet’s dialogue with mum would have not been as full of interesting details. Finally, a big thank you to the hospital for which I work, the IRCCS Policlinico of Milan Foundation, which has agreed to publish the story on its website, making it available to many people. I want especially to say thank you to all the people who read and will read the story to their children, because the idea of being able to spread something good in this difficult time nourishes my hope with the belief that it is always possible to share and face things that happen, even the most painful.

Introduction In this uncertain and complex time, in which scientists from all over the world ask questions and look for answers to contain and overcome the difficult health situation caused by SArs-Cov2, it is very important not to forget children. They also have the right to know! Losing their routines, not understanding what is happening around them and sensing the worries of their primary caregivers can all become sources of anxiety and disorientation, especially for the little ones. This is even harder for vulnerable children or children with neurodevelopmental disorders, who may struggle to understand the situation and to manage their thoughts and emotions. It is important to talk to children and to inform them in a calm and direct way, using simple and realistic words that must not give the impression of minimising the problem, nor offer “magical” solutions that guarantee a happy end, just around the corner. It is better to be clear and tell the truth: that, unfortunately, what happens is not always under our control and this makes us feel worried. It is fundamental to find a balanced explanation which considers these points: the reasons and origins of the great changes in our daily lives, the acceptance of the emotions that accompany this change, and the teaching of the basic rules to protect ourselves and prevent infection. Above all, it is important to be reassuring and explain that people are trying to do their best, even though there are still many uncertainties and concerns. Children do not wait for adults’ explanation to interpret the world; they create their own ideas. It is essential to talk to and to listen to them, to avoid confusion and anxiety. It is important to leave space for discussion and questions, which will allow us to discover their real concerns (most likely very different from ours and, perhaps, easier to deal with). Therefore, the most important thing is to help children to understand that it is possible to talk about our concerns, to demonstrate that, together we can still have hope and be happy in this difficult time. We can find new ways to maintain relationships, even at a distance, reinventing ourselves and adapting (adults first). Starting from these observations, the working group of the Children and Adolescence Neuropsychiatry Operative Unit of Milan (part of the IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan Foundation), which I coordinate, has set itself the goal of finding a concrete and ready-to-use way to facilitate parents and children in approaching the coronavirus, the emotions, and all the restrictions and possible consequences that accompany it, in the best possible way. What better way to communicate and share emotions and experiences than reading a story together? This is how the story you are about to read was born; with the support and precious suggestions of a group of colleagues, psychologist and psychotherapist, Francesca Dall’Ara (who has been working for many years in the field of complex disability within our Operational Unit), began writing. It is a simple story that tells a complex reality, with the aim of supporting mums and dads in facing this very difficult time together with the little ones (and perhaps also thanks to them). Now make yourself comfortable and enjoy your reading!

Francesca Dall’Ara Illustrazioni di

Giada Negri

Maria Antonella Costantino Director of the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatric Operational Unit (UONPIA) IRCCS Ca’ Granda Hospital Maggiore Policlinico of Milan Foundation.

Story of the Coronavirus


t is almost dark, but Violet has no intention of sleeping. She is sitting at her desk, drawing little monsters. ‘What are you drawing, sweetheart? It’s time to go to bed,’ says Mum. ‘I am drawing the Coronavirus,’ replies Violet calmly. ‘Mm... Coronavirus is not that big!’ Mum smiles. ‘Really??? So why is everyone so scared of it?’ Violet looks puzzled. She was quite sure that the thing that was scaring grownups so much, making schools close and messing up everyone’s lives had to be at least 30 feet taller than her dad!

‘Let’s go to bed and I’ll tell you a bit more about this little monster.’ Violet and Mum tuck themselves under the warm duvet and Mum starts talking with a kind voice. ‘Once upon a time there was a little monster named Coronavirus. It was born a few months ago in a country far far away from our home. It is teeny-tiny and lives in people’s spit.’ ‘Ew! People’s spit???’ Violet is disgusted. ‘Yes, it can also live in snot.’ Mum continues and giggles. ‘Coronavirus is very cheeky and it loves living in those disgusting places. ‘That’s how it moves from one place to another and travels all around the world, from person to person!’ ‘How does it travel? What does it mean “from person to person?”’ Violet asks curiously. ‘It travels through small droplets of saliva, through sneezes, through coughs... ‘That’s why I’ve been asking you to wash your hands more than usual, and not to hug and kiss your brothers, friends, Granny and Grandpa. ‘It is also for this reason that grownups decided to close schools and why you see people walking around wearing protective face masks, even though it is not dressing up day!’ ‘Today I gave you and daddy a kiss… what if now the little monster is in my snot?’ ‘Don’t worry sweetheart; grownups and doctors are working really hard to learn about this little monster and finding ways to fight it. Do you know what they found out?’ ‘What? Tell me! I want to know!’ exclaims Violet. ‘They found out that generally, Coronavirus doesn’t like children and young people, despite the fact they are very snotty! And even if they catch it, they recover very quickly and suffer much less than grownups.’


‘What are the children going to do if grownups get ill altogether?’ Violet asks. ‘We don’t want that to happen. That’s why in those countries where there are many people sick we all have to stay at home and keep safe even if it is boring and really hard sometimes. We don’t want their spit to wander around! If we all get sick, doctors are going to struggle to take care of us.’ ‘You are right Mum; I didn’t think about that. What if our Doctor gets sick? Who is going to tell us what medicine to take?’ Violet suddenly realises that even doctors can get sick. ‘Indeed sweetheart, that’s what worries grownups at the moment. We want to cure sick people and try to stop this little monster wandering around. ‘There is something else that you need to know. For some people Coronavirus is mild and makes their throat sore; they have a cold and cough, sometimes temperature, but then in a few days and with the right medicines they feel better again.’

“Cosa mamma dimmelo, sono curiosa!” incalza Margherita.

‘What about other people?’ Violet worries and keeps thinking about it. ‘Older people and people with other health problems are the ones at risk, and we have to protect them.’ ‘Is it like Great Grandma who is old and can’t walk properly? Do these people die?’ ‘Yes, it’s people like her. If they get the virus they might need to go to hospital and stay for a long time, and unfortunately some of them might also not be able to recover and they might die.’ ‘I understand Mum. Can you tell Great Grandma not to go out anymore?’ asks Violet, thinking that she already found the solution. ‘She knows it already, sweetheart. That’s also why we haven’t visited her recently, but luckily your sister Jennie keeps her company by calling her every single day!’ ‘So why does Dad go to work then?’ ‘Because many grownups have to go to work, like Dad or your Doctor for example, but they know that they have to be careful. They protect themselves in different ways: they wash


their hands, they wear face masks, sometimes they also wear gloves and they all try to keep a safe distance from each other.’ ‘If you think about it, there is also something positive that this little monster has brought. In these days many parents like me can spend more time with their children and do things with no rush.’ ‘What about us Mum? Can we go out?’ Violet asks impatiently because she really loves going outside. ‘Going outside is wonderful sweetheart, but it’s a bit difficult at the moment… ‘What about we sit on the mat in your room tomorrow, we open all the windows and make bubbles? With the fresh breeze coming from outside if we close our eyes we can pretend to be in the park.’ ‘What??? We are allowed to make bubbles inside???’ Violet asks surprised. ‘Yes, we are!’ Mum exclaims.


‘I told you that there are some positives in this strange time.’ ‘I would love that!!! Thanks Mum!’ ‘But…’ Violet’s face is sad now. ‘I miss my friends. I am bored at home all day. I even miss my teachers!’ ‘I understand sweetheart, I miss my friends too. ‘Tomorrow we can make a list of the friends you are missing the most and you can use my phone to make a group video call with them!’ Mum says. ‘What??? I am allowed to call my friends with your phone???’ Violet cheers as she didn’t expect such good news! ‘Only twenty minutes a day, you cheeky monkey!’ Mum smiles, she is happy to see that Violet is adapting to the new situation so well and that she is so enthusiastic about simple things. ‘So, tomorrow morning firstly we have pancakes for breakfast; then we do some homework, perhaps with some of your friends on video call; then you all help me to do the washing and finally we open the windows and we make bubbles in your room!’


‘I was thinking that in the afternoon we could also make pizza! So we surprise Daddy when he comes home from work! What shall we put on top of the pizza? Ham or veggies? ...Violet?’ Violet does not anwer, she is sound asleep. She is not thinking about the little monster anymore; instead she has many ideas and projects for the day ahead. ‘Goodnight my love, sweet dreams!’ Mum whispers and she gently kisses Violet’s forehead, careful not to spit.


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Story of the coronavirus  

© 2020 Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson S.p.A. Via del Pioppeto 24 38121 TRENTO ITALY Tel. +39 0461 951500 Fax + 39 0461 950698 www.erickson.i...

Story of the coronavirus  

© 2020 Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson S.p.A. Via del Pioppeto 24 38121 TRENTO ITALY Tel. +39 0461 951500 Fax + 39 0461 950698 www.erickson.i...