Sarah Anderson, Founder FosterWiki
Introduction to Bear Force
Richard Bland wrote Bear Force following the loss of his son, who died by suicide in 2013, now with adaptations for use for parents, carers, schools and children’s organisations it is used to raise awareness of the need for children to speak out about their worries and to help adults give them the time and a safe space to listen to them.
“This little book is a fantastic tool for parents and professionals to open conversations with children that might otherwise feel too difficult. Encouraging talking about feelings as part of everyday life is a great way to support positive mental health. Brilliant!”
Charlie O’Dell, Chief Executive Office The Dove Service
What is Bear Force?
Bear Force is a storybook with subtext helping children to verbalise their emotions, talk and be heard in a safe space, and a wonderful interactive website where children can engage, colour in, draw, learn how to relax, follow AB on his adventures around the world, find support, become member’s of the ‘Bear Force’ and become a Bear Buddy.
Find out more here: https://www.bearforce.org.uk
What is its mission?
Bear Force was established to reach children of all ages. It looks to create safe spaces and environments where they can talk and be heard. its easily accessible platforms provide advice and support in a format that children can understand and raises awareness of the need for adults to listen.
The book has subtext to encourage engagement and communication with children and young people in a gentle way as tackling issues head-on is not always the way. It is often much easier to work with a child indirectly using tools, distractions, and other mediums to facilitate engagement.
It encourages dialogue with children and gives them space to express their feelings from a young age and continue to do so as they grow, which can have a really positive impact on their mental health.
When a child is absorbed in a story their unconscious feelings and thoughts can flow more freely than when asked a direct question about themselves. This enchanting story of a teddy bear who faces lots of changes and emotions can be used simply as a storybook or to encourage a deeper level of engagement with a child or children as they relate to the bear’s character.
The Bear Force story book
It is a story of an endearing bear called AB, who finds himself on a shelf in a toy warehouse.
As night falls and the staff in the warehouse go home, he and his toy friends come to life and play together.
In the daytime, however, they watch the warehouse grabber pluck other toys from the shelves and take them off to their new lives. They wonder when their time will come and where they will end up.
One day it’s AB Bear’s turn and he begins to worry about what his future might be.
How to use Bear Force
You can read the story of AB Bear by itself or read it and use the subtext. This text is designed to be gentle, curious and enquiring and help children explore their emotions.
It is a non-direct way for a child to express emotions, they can speak about how AB might feel in those situations, however by definition these will be their own emotions as they will come from their own ‘frame of reference’ which simply means the set of assumptions and experiences that make them who they are and from which they judge ideas, actions and experiences.
AB bear will help them explore their own frame of reference, although, of course, they won’t know that’s what they are doing!
Read the extra text and wait for the child to respond, do not hurry or repeat the text, silence is often good as the child may be internally processing what they are feeling.
Let the child tell you what they think, don’t prompt or use words they are not using and reflect back to them what they have said so they can hear it back, they may add things or change it or think for a while if they don’t respond that’s ok too.
Let’s look at an example
“AB waved goodbye to the other toys, as he passed the planes he gave them a ‘thumbs up’ to let them know he was okay. He would miss them a lot. “Perhaps I am going on an adventure,” he said to himself “
The additional text reads;
“AB sounds excited, but at the same time, he sounds sad about having to leave his friends behind. It seems like sometimes we can have more than one feeling at the same time. What do you think?”
Your child may say something like;
“It must make him feel upset leaving his friends, he might be cross, but he might be excited that he’s going on an adventure. I think he will miss them though.”
So the child has identified sadness, anger, excitement and loss.
Your responses can validate the child’s feelings “I think you may be right” or “It sounds like he might be upset, cross and excited all at the same time”
Or this example;
“AB sat very still “A captain? Am I on a ship?” AB wondered, there was a tearing sound as the box was opened and AB found himself staring into the eyes of a lady and two little children “Welcome to your new home. We’ve been waiting for you” said the lady. My name is Squadron Leader Miss Smith. Now let’s see how these fit” pointing to the little green uniform and hat that has been in the box with AB.”
It sounds like AB is just like us; sometimes things change and we move home or school and it can feel a bit scary. Sometimes though change can be exciting as we get to meet new people.
How do you think AB was feeling now?
Here it will give your child an opportunity to explore change, moving on, leaving things behind, loss, fear and meeting new people.
The way your children respond will also give you an insight into their own worries, fears and concerns, and also into how their emotions are shaped by their own frame of reference.
Resist the need to ‘fix’ such as “Oh no I don’t think he thinks that, just imagine what fun and how nice it’s going to be at his new place and all the new friends he’ll make”. As parents or carers, we are all tempted to ‘make it better’ and ‘fix’, it’s because we care, but it’s important we validate our children’s feelings if we continually try to override them the child will keep their feelings inside as they recognise our discomfort in them expressing more difficult emotions and our need to minimise them.
At Bear Force, we hope that in helping our children to express emotions and talk about the way they feel from an early age we will support their mental health both now and in their futures.
More about the Bear Force work
Bear Force supports charities and appropriate organisations to help vulnerable children through funding and brand awareness through its own ‘child-targeted’ communication platforms.
Bear Force works with several leading authorities in children’s mental health, including the Royal Air Force, KidsOut, Fosterwiki and The Dove Service, who together extend Bear Force’s reach. Our Management Team consist of highly experienced individuals in their fields, all of who have also worked within the mental health or children’s mental health arena.
Emotional problems in young adulthood – as well as adulthood – can often stem from childhood experiences with reactions presenting themselves many years later. Our work looks to support children as young as 3 years and provides them with tools to help them right through their formative years.
Bear Force has already attracted considerable sponsorship interest across many industries. Its uniqueness, easily identified both visually and through its simple messaging, looks to develop a collective voice by working with other organisations who want to help children rather than compete in what is a very busy arena with the same narrative.
It also uniquely seeks to partner with companies and industries to champion the cause by developing their own relationships with the Bear Force brand.
Interested in buying a copy of Bear Force?
Information, Help and Support
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