The overall “lack” everyone is feeling during the Covid-19 pandemic is taking its greatest toll on the youngest and most vulnerable among us. That’s what motivated Dr. Jill Garripoli Pedalino of Sparta, a practicing general pediatrician and the owner of Healthy Kids Pediatrics in Nutley, N.J., to share a second message with children in her new book, “You Are Abundant.”
“I created the text of ‘You Are Abundant’ soon after I wrote ‘The Universe Is Listening,’” she said. “However, the words sat in a drawer for some time. I knew that the children needed to be reminded of the importance of gratitude, appreciation, and the knowledge of their own abundance, but it was in January of 2021 that I realized it was time to contact my illustrator and get the message out there.”
She said that reintroducing — or, in many cases, introducing for the first time — the concept of appreciating what we do have, rather than what we do not have, is a powerful idea that children and their families needed to start discussing. “This book serves as a platform for those discussions to happen in the home,” she said.
“The Universe Is Listening,” published in 2018, was a local success, especially among the families at her pediatric practice.
“I had the pleasure of working with a number of elementary schools, some of which I visited to do an in-person reading of the book to the children,” Dr. Pedalino said. “When the pandemic began and children were learning remotely a principal of a New Jersey elementary school read the book virtually to all his students as part of a reading program he devised to maintain interest in reading and to address the mental health concerns in the pediatric population that resulted from the pandemic. Although it is a children’s book, so many parents shared that as they were reading the words to their children they also benefited from the message.”
She said that both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have declared a mental health crisis in the United States.
“Yes, the exponential increase in social media involvement as well as the instant gratification that technology provides have heightened our children’s awareness of what others think is important and even normal,” Dr. Pedalino said. “The ability to effortlessly and instantaneously find a plethora of information, react to others, and judge one’s ‘worth’ based on the amount of likes or followers has catapulted young and impressionable minds into states of depression, anxiety, and self-judgment.”
She believes the pandemic fueled the disconnect between each child and their own sense of self by physically separating and isolating them from their peers while, through electronics and social media, connecting them to the world in “unhealthy and unrealistic ways.”
“The more children have the time, and oftentimes unmonitored and unrestricted opportunity to experience their environment through social media, and the less they are interacting with their parents, mentors, and other healthy role models, the deeper they are moving toward mental health instability,” she said.
See what’s in front of you
The heart of her message in “You Are Abundant” is a reminder of all the things we already have for which we can be grateful. “The book defines the word abundance in a way in which children can understand what it means to have a lot of something, but then they learn that having a lot of love and appreciation for the simple things is arguably more important than having a lot of items.” Dr. Pedalino said. “The first step in finding abundance is to be thankful for what we do have in this moment. This exercise in gratitude does not take much time or money or supplies like a pen and paper, but rather it starts with a baby step toward realizing the joy that can be felt when we use our senses to appreciate what is already in front of us.”
Although this book did not require any research, it did require her to be “present and mindful” of the message she was sending to children, drawing upon the teachings of her own mentors and role models, and her 15 years of experience working directly with children as a general pediatrician. “I have spent countless hours and now years finding ways to absorb what some may call new-age information and concepts, but what really is the foundation of our Law of Attraction-based universe,” she said. “I will continue this effort not only for my personal growth, but for the children of the world for whom we all must care.”
Paul Sharry is the father of one of her patients at Healthy Kids Pediatrics. He said her new book is “written from the heart.”
“Dr. Jill has captured what most children feel in a delicate manner,” he said. “This book has opened up many conversations with my little one. When tough times arise, I find it easy to bring up the words Dr. Jill wrote to comfort and guide. We have read it many times and each time I’m blown away by the message and beautiful illustrations.”
Nicole Ventresca, owner of First Impressions Childcare Centers and the PTO President at Helen Morgan School in Sparta, said she loves the positive message and “can’t wait to share it in my classrooms.”
Amy Del Coro, a teacher at the Helen Morgan School in Sparta, said the book tells “a beautiful story with equally stunning artwork. I am going to read it to my class day one- and every year after.”
Deirdre Breckenridge, CEO at Women Worldwide said, “I’m grateful for physicians like Jill who bring the positive into their practices.
Dr. Pedalino feels it’s important for parents and caregivers to remember that all children, from small infants to seemingly independent young adults, are watching their every word and action.
“Young adults today are incredibly keen critical thinkers and are constantly weighing the environmental stimuli flooding their senses to understand how to balance their true inner feelings of abundance, love, and acceptance with the external messages adults send them of lack, self-judgment, and exclusion,” Dr. Pedalino said.
She suggested that parents create new routines at home, starting with their own gratitude practice each morning and night, and then involving their children, whether at mealtime or at the end of the day. “In our home we have a policy of no phones at the dinner table and have a nightly routine of sharing our favorite part of the day at bedtime,” she said. “In addition, families can turn off the TV and other electronics and do a family activity together, and parents can help their children find ways to connect with the community through volunteer work, getting a part-time job, or even helping a neighbor or friend, especially an elderly member of the community.”
“You Are Abundant” is available on Amazon.
“The first step in finding abundance is to be thankful for what we do have in this moment. This exercise in gratitude does not take much time or money or supplies like a pen and paper, but rather it starts with a baby step toward realizing the joy that can be felt when we use our senses to appreciate what is already in front of us.” Dr. Jill Garripoli Pedalino