This is a playful & bouncy story, that celebrates friendship & sends a ‘better together’ message, in rhyming text & witty illustrations. From the very opening lines, Bear loves Squirrel’s company, ‘Wherever you’re going. I’m going too. Whatever you’re doing. I’m sticking with you’. It explores how friendships have their challenges, through Bear’s affectionate but clumsy enthusiasm & Squirrel’s more reserved approach to life. When Squirrel decides to take some time out, we learn that it’s fine to be alone, but sometimes being without a friend can become too lonely. As well as being an exploration of friendship, this is a story that has resonance for sibling relationships & for parent & child relationships, too.
It strikes me that there are many aspects of Bear’s personality & approach to the friendship with Squirrel, that fit with the PACE-ful attitude that we seek to hold, in caring for children who have developmental trauma. Playfulness, acceptance, curiosity & empathy. Bear is open & engaged & unwavering in his loyalty. He delights in Squirrel, even when Squirrel is more cautious about displaying affection. Bear models that it is ok to make mistakes & he is comfortable with this – mistakes don’t mean that they don’t like each other. He respects Squirrel’s boundaries & need for time by himself, even when he feels a bit hurt by it. & Bear is there to greet Squirrel with warmth & without reservation, when Squirrel seeks him out again.
A child with developmental trauma often struggles with the reciprocity of relationships – whether with friends, parents or carers. Not having had their emotional needs met in the past, the child’s nervous system adapts to avoid the intense painfulness of this rejection happening again. The child becomes controlling & avoids emotional connection. It is very hard to remain open to relationships, if you do not trust in the other’s good intentions & you perceive yourself as bad & unworthy of good care.
These are the children that we need to work hard to give lots of signs of relational safety & to actively communicate our appreciation of. To let know that we understand why it is so hard for them to accept either comfort or limit setting from us. To help develop the confidence that they can risk being in relationships with others again.
I’m Sticking with You is a story that provides opportunities for sharing appreciation of togetherness & sticking with it, even when that is difficult. It highlights the benefits to be had in relationships – this is what people who love each other do for each other. It is a claiming story – Bear communicates to Squirrel that they are a team, joined at the heart. He will love him whether times are good or bad. He will stay as close as Squirrel can allow him to be.