One of the toughest challenges for any parent is helping a young child face and overcome a certain fear or phobia. Fobie Friends by Brian and Leslie Miller is the first series of books to address childhood fears in an entertaining, non-clinical way. Adorable plush toys that can be used by parents, teachers, counselors and educators that can be used in storytelling to capture kids’ imaginations accompany the books.
The Fobie Friends three part book series features lovable characters that address childhood fears, using multiple digital and print platforms. The author of the book series, Brian and Leslie Miller is a husband and wife team with a Master's in clinical psychology and education. They worked with a team of experts to create characters that depict a more child-friendly version of "phobia." The slogan, "Finding fun in facing your fears," helps children to conquer their fear of the dark, of heights, or of water.
The authors of the books, Brian and Leslie Miller were kind enough to sit down with Examiner.com for a brief interview about Fobie Friends.
How did you come up with the concept?
Fobie Friends was created to help children find fun and useful ways to think about their fears and anxieties. Our friend and partner, Mike Pitstick, thought of the original concept several years ago and when he asked us to help develop and launch it, we excitedly jumped on board! We watch our own young children deal with occasional fear, and that certainly created a need for us. Fobie Friends is truly a labor of love; we’re all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and we all want children to feel safe and empowered.
What makes it different than other things out there that help kids combat fears?
The Fobie Friends series is meant to entertain children, while giving them the tools to talk about and deal with fear and anxiety. We both have backgrounds in psychology, and we research and consult with a group of therapists and teachers to further validate our writing. So, while we do have that clinical foundation, we never want to make the Fobie Friends brand feel heavy or clinical. We want the books and toys to be an entertaining, relatable resource for kids as they grow and conquer their fears. Each entry in the series deals with a specific fear, such as that of the dark or heights. The goal was to address the most common childhood phobias with narratives tailored to each experience, and we hope to continue to produce more Fobie adventures following this format. The plush toys supplement the goals of the books by acting as a sort of security blanket to comfort kids.
Another thing that, we feel, really distinguishes the Fobie line is its use of rhyme. Each story is presented in rhyme, which has proven to be a big hit with kids. It’s a wonderful tool for teaching them, because it makes the content appealing and memorable.
What has been parents’ reaction? Kids’ reaction?
Parents and kids have been very receptive towards our line. We’re aware that discussing fears with children can be a very sensitive issue, especially since many kids are hesitant to admit that they have a fear. The Fobie Friends provide a forum for that discussion without ever making kids feel as though they’re in trouble or that they’re “just being silly,” as they often do when parents or educators try to broach the issue directly. Several educators who’ve used the series in their classrooms have remarked upon the way that the books resonate with their students. The characters in the stories begin their journeys feeling frightened and, by the end, wind up feeling happy and empowered by their experience. Our hope is that children will want to emulate that. Kids have responded well to the product, too, asking us for the plush toys and keychains so that they can keep their Fobie Friend close to them.
What do you like best about the books?
What we think is most powerful about the Fobie Friends world is that it helps kids to realize that they’re already equipped with the best possible tool for fending off their fears: their imagination. If you can imagine that there’s a monster under the bed, you can certainly imagine some way to overcome that monster. Creativity can be immensely helpful in dealing with fears. We also like the role played by the Fobie Friends, because they’re exactly that--they’re friends, not heroes or teachers but peers. They’re there to show that it really is possible to go from being scared to feeling absolutely confident.
Who are your current Fobie Friends and what are their fears?
We currently have two books out on the market, with a third being released this summer.
The first is Did My Owl Just Growl?, which features the blue owl Fobie Friend, who helps the young boy in the book to overcome his fear of the dark. The owl shows up to explain to the boy that the night is filled with all kinds of wonderful things, if you look at it the right way.
The second book deals with the fear of heights. It’s called, Climb the Monkey Bars? That’s Bananas, and its Fobie Friend character is the purple gorilla who explains how he was able to overcome his own fear of climbing.
Being released this summer is our latest, Hold Your Seahorses! Water is the Worst!, which is themed around a family trip to the beach. The little girl in the story has a fear of water, which she is able to face with the help of a green, snorkeling seahorse.
You also have a line of stuffed animals available. In what ways can the Fobie Friends stuffed animals help children with their fears?
Animal characters are common in kids’ books, simply because animals appeal to kids. As figures in the stories, they tap into the sense of fantasy that is common in kids of a young age. We’re trying to harness the same imagination that is responsible for creating or exacerbating phobias, in order to use it as a tool to deal with those same fears. There is a specific animal plush toy designed to accompany each book. We wanted the toys to be a comforting reminder for kids, something that they could take with them to bed or to the beach, so that they have a physical reminder to be brave, just like the children in the stories. They help create a feeling of safety--plush animals are often used by counselors as an aid during therapy, as we learned during our research.
What’s next for you?
Our fourth book is in the final development stages right now and we are working on the fifth. These upcoming books address issues that are more common in school settings but can also be present in everyday life. This portion of the series will address new experiences, such as fitting in and the issue of bullying. We’re also excited to announce that our interactive e-books will launch over the next couple of weeks, allowing Fobie Friends to be available via new, electronic platforms.