Local author and teacher, Kelly Olson, launches her first in a series of youth empowerment fictional books.
By Maka Boeve
Maddie, the young heroine of Chill Out & Stop Making This Weird: A Girl’s Survival Guide Extraordinaire, is ready to take on the challenges of life changes. She is in her ‘tween years with a changing body, raging hormones, and worst of all, none of her friends are talking about it. There are so many questions, yet no manual.
Where’s the Rule Book?
Author Kelly Olson, a long-time Rochester elementary school teacher, recognized this lack of guidebooks and decided to launch a series of fiction books on various life topics that young adults, especially girls, faced. “What never really left me when I facilitated ‘Children In Change’ groups over my lunch period for students who were experiencing changes like death, divorce, illness or other issues was that their fear and anxiety was mostly rooted in the unknown. My goal was to help them understand that others had similar experiences, and to provide them with some coping techniques.”
Olson decided to write the series after struggling to find good teaching tools dedicated to “complex and intimate topics” that were often taboo. “I wanted to fill this void and help kids know that they are not alone in their pubescent passage. It was written to provide parents and teachers with a tool to facilitate discussion indirectly through a character, removing some of the awkwardness their child or student may feel.”
As a teacher, Olson encourages parents to be as “light-hearted” as possible. She says,“The best advice to parents is to keep open communication, try to destigmatize the awkwardness associated with puberty, and to take the time to tell your own puberty story. It might bring some good laughs and open doors for great discussion. We all have a story to tell regarding that phase in life.”
Olson says. “I’m not sure who it is harder for, the parent or the child, when having the coming of age discussion. It was paramount to emphasize in my book the importance of kids staying connected with their parents during this stage of life in a way that would be both believable and encouraging. It is a hard topic to discuss only because we make it hard. It’s a fact that hormones create interesting times, but the truth of the matter is kids really do want to talk to their parents about it. They are full of uncertainty and they want guidance.”
While teaching the family life unit in her classroom, Olson had a puberty question box where students submitted anonymous questions that led to group discussions. She notes, “I aligned parts of the book to tie in with National Health Education Standards and Minnesota Benchmark Requirements for late elementary and middle school students while still maintaining the humor component.” She adds, “I address the hard topics in the book and provide answers to questions that I know kids have based on collecting their questions in the puberty question box for over two decades. Start with the book and springboard from there.”
A portion of every book sale will be donated to Days for Girls International. Olson is proud to be making a difference. “Together we will bring greater dignity, knowledge, and opportunity for all girls and women to help end period poverty.” She adds, “Knowing we were all going to be participating in girls helping girls and creating a global impact, it was then I knew I was ready to publish.”
Olson urges, “The best advice I can give to young girls is that they are not alone. Every single person in the world goes through it. No exceptions. I encourage them to talk about it with their friends, parents, older siblings, grandparents or whomever they feel comfortable with. I would ask them to dive in and learn about puberty in a safe way in order to remove some of the fears associated with it.”
Chill Out & Stop Making This Weird is available on Amazon. Maddie will appear again in Olson’s next book, What Am I, the FBI? Olson says, “The same sweet and confused character uses her humor and charm to charter the new territory of divorce.” Find out more on Olson’s website: kellyolsonbooks.com.
Maka Boeve is owner of WaveMaker Consulting LLC and is a freelance writer and educator based in Rochester.