Authored by international political writer and historian Alex Ryvchin, the Sydney- based father of three wrote A New Day to foster good mental health and well-being in our children through these challenging times and to impart a timeless message about finding the positive even through the darkest of days.
There was a moment when I realised this book had to be written. We have a very close-knit family and my parents play a huge role in the lives of my children. After a week of lockdown, they were desperate to see my three daughters and they drove to our place and when they arrived I reflexively told the girls that grandma and grandpa were here, and they bounded out of the house and began to run up the driveway to them. Then I remembered the pandemic and I had to stop the kids and tell my parents to remain in the car. The girls were overcome with confusion and sadness, not quite comprehending why they couldn’t hug their own grandparents. And I could see how it crushed my parents which only made the girls sob all the more. It was a difficult scene to endure as a son and a father. I wanted to make my children happy again and to reassure them that this period will soon pass. I went straight to my desk and began to write, A New Day, not only for my own children but for the millions enduring far greater hardship.
The story helps children to remain hopeful and resilient. It reminds them that playgrounds and school friends and exotic holidays await, but for the moment, to focus on life’s simple pleasures – family, companionship, the comfort and safety of the home, and of course, the unwavering love of their parents and siblings.
When this is all over, the Coronavirus pandemic will be recorded and remembered as an extraordinary time in human history. For all our rapid advancements, unprecedented freedoms, access to information, and abundance of choice, we have been left isolated, anxious, and deeply unsettled. In the space of mere weeks, daily routines of work, family, leisure, that we have each carefully constructed over many years to give rhythm, balance and stability to our lives, crashed to nothing. Our interactions, the handshake, the kiss, the embrace, physical proximity to our fellow man, customs that have evolved over thousands of years to make us feel loved, valued and safe, suddenly ground to a terrible halt. To add to all this, there is the dread of financial insecurity, anxiety over the ability to obtain basic household items, and the fear that this enigmatic, creeping disease will strike us or the ones we love. We can perhaps only compare these times to living through a world war. For a generation that has known no conscription and seen no global conflicts, that is a jarring, unnerving proposition.
Our children are resilient and adaptable. They are unaffected by the insecurities and preoccupations we adults carry with us like heavy luggage. Instead, they are quick to forget, quick to move forward and ready to focus on what they have rather than what they have lost. And yet, the sudden loss of their classrooms, their sporting and social activities, their playgrounds, contact with their friends, and the withdrawal of physical affection from grandparents, is something truly profound. They sense the nervous tension of their parents. They witness the increased squabbling from lives upended and now lived at suffocatingly close quarters. Experienced for a prolonged period of time, all this could take a terrible toll on them.
But if we are resolute and focused on the well-being of our children; if we can hold firm in the belief that this crisis, like all before it, will eventually pass; something quite remarkable begins to happen. We begin to see that this brief stanza in human history may indeed leave us permanently changed, but in some ways, it could change us for the better. Suddenly deprived of so much, we begin to understand what is trivial and what really counts. A walk in the park, exercise, social contact, family, health. We are reminded to be grateful and not to take anything for granted. We begin to value the teachers whose patience must be superhuman. We appreciate the doctors and nurses and first-responders, those who live their lives in the service of others.
It may be that once this terrible virus passes, we will quickly slip back into the routines of old and will emerge as self-absorbed as we ever were. This book was written not only to help children through difficult times but to hold onto the good that has come from a miserable situation. It aims to foster resilience and a sense of hope and optimism in our children and in ourselves. And it seeks to remind us all, not just during this crisis, what is really important in life.