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Helping Kids Through Trauma and Big Emotions | The Breakdown with Bethany

Helping a Kid Through Trauma and Big Emotions Slumberkins Co-founders Kelly and Callie on The Breakdown with Bethany

It’s no secret that kids have big emotions, and a lot of them. As parents, we need all the resources we can get to help our children navigate these emotions. We’re especially at a loss when it’s time to help kids through trauma. That’s why I love the brand Slumberkins. It’s a children’s brand on a mission to promote emotional wellness and provide tools to help raise caring, confident, and resilient children.

In this episode of The Breakdown with Bethany I chat with co-founders Callie Christensen and Kelly Oriard about their brand and why they started it. We also touch on how parents can talk to their children about tragic events in the news. This episode was filmed just one day after the tragic shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left many parents angered and dealing with their own big emotions. Take a look at the episode below.

Helping Kids Through Trauma and Navigating Big Emotions

Emotional Development Journey

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Hi, and welcome back to another episode of The Breakdown with Bethany. My name is Bethany Braun-Silva, and today my guests are Callie Christensen and Kelly Oriard. They’re the co-founders and co-CEOs of Slumberkins, which is a children’s brand dedicated to helping parents support their children’s emotional learning. And while you might not see this episode for quite some time, today is May 25th, 2022 a day after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down in Uvalde, Texas. I’m going to be talking to Callie and Kelly about how we can help our children through times of trauma. I know this is just a minor speck in what I could possibly be doing to give back here, but I hope you enjoy the episode. I hope you take something away from it. And if you can please head over to Mom’s Demand Action or Everytown for Gun Safety to donate. Enough is enough.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I really do appreciate you both being here with me. I have been a fan of this brand for quite some time, and actually we’ve met in person in New York City. And I know you had a lot of things cooking back then, so I can wait to get into it. But for people who don’t know, tell us what Slumberkins is all about.

Callie Christensen:
Yeah. Slumberkins is an emotional wellness brand for families that deliver therapeutic tools through the form of publishing and plush, and content, and try to just meet families where they are in their emotional development journey. And right now it shows up through our cute cuddly characters like Bigfoot that helps promote self-esteem, Yeti that promotes mindfulness. We have an alpaca for stress relief. All of the different characters are kind of mascots of these different emotional pillars.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
And what sort of like, how did you guys get started in this? Because it seems like so necessary. Right. But then what was, I guess my question really is what was the initial inspiration? And then what was the evolution like to the plushies and the books? Like, why did you choose that route?

Kelly Oriard:
Yeah, Callie and I actually we’ve been best friends since we were 14. So we are the type of best friends that we’d like, hang out all the time, silently be on phone calls with each other, even when we weren’t in each other’s presence. And so we serendipitously ended up on a maternity leave together at the same time and it was Callie’s second child and my first, so of course I was on the phone constantly with her and begging her to come over and help me because my son was colicky and she seemed to know the secrets. Like she swaddled him really tight and said, he’s just tired. That’s why he’s crying. And I was like, how do you know these things? Even though at the time I was a therapist, the reality of motherhood hit me hard once I had my own son.

Kelly Oriard:
And so during the time we were both on leave from our respective jobs. I was in marriage and family therapist and school counselor. Callie was a special education teacher. We were inspired by our own babies and talking about actually just the difficulty that we were seeing in the schools and the disconnect around social, emotional learning and the engagement of families around that and the support that was missing. We knew as new parents, we wanted to do the best for our kids, just like everybody else out there. But there seemed to be a lack of tools and resources to help support and prepare kids for getting into the school system and handling their emotions. So it was really our shared experience in the schools that brought us together on that leave. And we started wondering, well, maybe we could do something about it. What should we do?

Bethany Braun-Silva:
And so can you talk a little bit about the choice to create books and with the plushies that go with it? Because I think that’s so interesting. And then just so people know, what are your target age groups? Because does it go up to past eight or is it really for that early childhood?

Callie Christensen:
Yeah, it’s really for early childhood. So our sweet spot, we always say birth through eight, but typically the content really resonates when a child starts to speak their very first words up through that second grade. Emotional wellness really starts when the baby is like in the mom’s belly, but at the same time, everyone is at a different place in their emotional wellness journey. And so there’s sometimes where an adult could be like at an infant stage of an emotional wellness journey. So we oftentimes, to answer the question around like why books, Kelly and I, as educators, we were both using these therapeutic tools and interventions in the schools with our students. And so we were just using the same sets of tools at like an older age demo and seeing how powerful that type of work was, we were having with students as the secondary primary caregivers as like a counselor or a teacher.

Callie Christensen:
And knowing that like anytime a parent was more involved in that process, those students specifically always made like more positive progress. So that was our mission of, okay, let’s create these books and storylines that would resonate with parents to want to do with their children. And we knew that typically in the world of parenting with toddlers and little ones, the most connected moments in your daily routine is around that bedtime routine. It’s when screens are off, phones are away and you typically snuggle up and read a few books to your child. So if we figured, okay, if we could put something that’s meaningful for that moment of the day, like let’s try to build something around that. Hence like even why the brand name is Slumberkins.

Slumberkins Community

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Right. That definitely makes sense. Oh my gosh, my question just flew out of my head. Oh, this is what I wanted to ask. Because you guys are really sort of, you’re touching on sort of like really important topics, I’m wondering have you gotten feedback like whether it’s like from friends or family or just a customer? And if you could share just like some of the most impactful feedback you’ve gotten about your product since you started and like what that means to you.

Callie Christensen:
Yeah. We are really lucky to have a community called the Slumberkins social Facebook group. That’s like parents and caregivers that are using the products that give us this feedback daily. So we’re kind of seeing it in use case and hearing stories daily, which can completely fuel the energy and passion behind the brand to continue to evolve and grow and provide more content and tools to help kids through trauma. But I would say some of the most meaningful things recently, actually something that happened was someone that’s in our Slumberkins social community group anonymously sent a Sprite bundle, which is our collection for grief and loss, sent it to a creator on TikTok who was in a very like bravely and being very vulnerable around a journey of losing her mom to cancer and that she was going to inherit sole custody of her seven-year-old sister.

Callie Christensen:
So the community was watching this happen on TikTok, anonymously sent her a Sprite, and then she received it and made the most beautiful organic post of just thanking whoever sent it to her and then really resonating with like a tool that is like a script basically to help support children around topics that can be really difficult to hear about and help kids through trauma. So when something like that happens where the actual like mission is first in the product experience and it feels like we’re fulfilling the mission that we set out to do. Those are by far the most meaningful moments for us.

Tragic Events and Helping Kids Through Trauma

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Yeah. That sounds incredible. And just to kind of segue, we did touch on this a little bit before we started the interview. You said some of your products do kind of provide a script for helping kids through trauma. I said in my introduction today is May 25th, 2022 a day after a horrific shooting in Uvalde Texas. And I think a lot of us, even though I’ve been a parenting editor for 10 years, I have no idea how to speak to my fourth-grader about this topic. And I think a lot of parents are struggling with that as well, especially with all of our own emotions that we’re feeling. So what do you suggest? I mean, I know it’s a loaded question. Like I don’t even know where to start and I’m hoping you guys, as the experts here might be able to provide some insight.

Kelly Oriard:
Yeah. It’s so funny because I think even in these moments being the experts, we feel the same. It’s like I was Googling just like everybody else. Like how do I talk about this to my kid? And so I had even said last night when we were talking about as a brand, what do we want to say? Just the heaviness and weight of this tragedy is like, it’s so, so fresh. And it’s so intense. So I think just first and foremost, giving yourself space as an adult to like, admit that and know that like we can’t just immediately focus on the kids and say like, I need to be able to know what to say and process and give them some answer that is so, it’s so hard to do in this moment. So I just want to validate that like everybody feeling that way, we feel that way too.

Kelly Oriard:
I think teachers are feeling that way, as kids go to school this morning. Parents are feeling that way, putting the kids on the buses and crying and feeling overwhelmed and looking at their own kids and just having a massive amount of emotions. So I think just being in that moment, accepting and understanding that emotions that are coming up are totally normal. This is a normal response to a very scary and upsetting, horrible tragedy. And I think just anecdotally this morning, I sent my son to preschool and to kindergarten and Callie had talked to her kids about it actually before me, because she has an older son and knowing that older kids have phones and are being exposed to this, it prompted her to tell her kids sooner than even me. And I was even talking to her about it this morning and saying, what did you say?

Kelly Oriard:
And how did that go? I don’t know if I want to tell my preschooler and my kindergartner yet, but just even hearing her say, I just know that it’s going to be on the bus or somebody’s going to say something and I’d rather them hear it for me. It did remind me and ground me down into knowing that I need to say something to my kids just to say, I’m here for you. It was scary. It’s horrible. Saying it’s not going to happen at your school, even though that’s not something I can promise. I want my kids to feel safe and know that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe. Those were the questions that came up immediately after I told them there was a shooting at a school and kids got hurt. And their immediate question was, did that happen at Aiden’s school?

Kelly Oriard:
Is that going to happen at my school? And I think for younger kids, because safety and a feeling of security is really important, it’s important to just let them know we’re doing everything we can. The adults are going to keep you safe. I’m here for you. People might have big feelings about what’s going on. It’s okay to have big feelings about that. That’s very scary. I’m here to talk to you about that. So bringing it back to the emotional support and safety that you can give to kids and then pointing towards the helpers in the community, the people, the teachers in the school, the people who are there to keep all of us safe and that we’re all going to be doing our part to keep each other safe was anecdotally how my conversation went. But again, I’m also Googling about helping kids through trauma like the rest of everybody else because it’s incomprehensible.

What’s Next

Bethany Braun-Silva:
I hate to switch topics from helping kids through trauma and emotions, but I do love this brand. It’s been so useful for me as a parent like I said. What’s next for Slumberkins?

Callie Christensen:
Yeah. I think as a brand, just trying to think of different ways that might support parents throughout their daily routine and journey of supporting children. And that doesn’t always look like a physical product. So through content, both like visual content for kids, as well as audio content for kids, audio content like through music for parents in the same way that we’ve built Slumberkins as a tool for parents to use with their children, we’re approaching like brand music publishing in the same way, which is super exciting behind the scenes right now. And just making the tools a little bit more accessible. We as educators know a price point for a $50 like bundle isn’t always available for every family that might need these supports. Well, not might, I would say every family needs the emotional realm supports. And so always looking at ways to diversify how we show up as a brand, kind of innovate the way that a preschool like IP property built on character love for kids can show up for parents whose kids adore the brand.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
That sounds fantastic. And I have to ask, and if they’re separate ones, what is your favorite Slumberkins bundle or character each of you, especially if it’s different, we want to know.

Callie Christensen:
Yeah. That’s so hard. Kelly, do you want to start or for me to start?

Kelly Oriard:
It’s hard. I always used to say I couldn’t choose, but since we added our last character, I can now choose and say, it’s Dragon for me. Dragon is in our resilience crew and focuses on creativity. And so we put that in the resilience crew because we really see creativity as an ultimate resource for kids and for adults to tap into the authentic creativeness within them and learn how to express that, create the world that they want to see, be unafraid to take risks and create. And it just inspires me and is a lot of the reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing at Slumberkins. So it’s the dragon in me that’s helping build this. So it’s always my favorite.

Callie Christensen:
Yeah. Mine would have to be innately Bigfoot just because I am like the resident Bigfoot here, both like emotionally and physically as a 6’2 person who was six feet tall in sixth grade. That really resonates with the core affirmation and core belief around like innate, like lovability and everyone like being able to know that you are lovable no matter what. And, but then even as a parent, I think about the ones that I use the most with my kids. And while Bigfoot’s a staple in our home, I tend to lean into Fox for family change. We navigated going through a divorce. We’re still navigating going through a divorce. Like we separated in 2019 and still like the kids are still definitely like grieving the loss of a family unit.

Callie Christensen:
So even our Sprite collection around grief and loss, we have two books. The first book actually is a really great introduction, as like an introduction to goodbyes. And so it kind of sets up loss and like change in a way that isn’t solely around just like death of a person or being. And so, and then the second book in the collection is more specific to losing a person. But I lean on that first book as a really great tool right now with my kids.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Well, thank you both so much. I mean, I continue to adore this brand. I think, the more we can get into family’s hands across the country, across the world, I just feel like the better off we will all be. Can you please let us know where we can go to find more information?

Callie Christensen:
Yes. Slumberkins.com. And I mean, I would personally check out the Slumberkins social community on Facebook. It’s the best parent community that’s not just about the brand, but more conversations around parenting and supporting the emotional health of children.

Bethany Braun-Silva:
Sounds great. Thank you both so much.

Callie Christensen:
Thank you.

Listen to this Episode about Helping Kids Through Trauma as a Podcast here:

Helping a Kid Through Trauma and Big Emotions Slumberkins Co-founders Kelly and Callie on The Breakdown with Bethany
Bethany Braun Silva

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