Olive the Otter lives with her family along the Otter River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a grand place for a river otter to grow up! The water is very clean and it is full fish. Otters love to eat fish! Usually Olive loves to swim and play along the river with her friends Olivia and Oscar, but lately she hasn’t felt much like playing. In fact, she’s felt sad and worried.
Olive’s new baby brother was born two weeks ago. His name is Otis. Olive was super excited about having a new baby brother, but Otis was born early, and his body did not have enough time to grow in his mother’s tummy. Olive heard a lot scary things about her brother like he needed a machine to breathe and he had to stay in a special box until he got bigger. She only the heard the adults whispering about Otis, and her mom was so busy going to the Otter Hospital that she didn’t seem to have any time for her.
Olive’s Grandma Goldie, was looking after everything at home and she tried to reassure her that everything would be all right, but that just made Olive worry more. She just felt like staying near the den and moped around. Sometimes, she felt so afraid, that her stomach hurt and her heart beat really fast. Grandma Goldie told Olive it was normal for her heart to beat fast and her stomach to feel funny when she felt worried and that she could help those feelings go away if she took slow deep breaths. Olive did try to do what her Grandma Goldie suggested, but it was hard to remember to use her breath to calm herself.
The day finally came that Olive could visit Otis at the hospital. When they checked in at the desk, a nurse named Miss Nadia, greeted Olive and her mom. Miss Nadia invited Olive to a special room. It was filled with other kids who had brothers and sisters that needed special care. Miss Nadia began by showing them a machine that helped the babies breathe. It made a whooshing sound. She showed them the tiny box they use for a bed. It had a special heater in it too keep the babies warm. She taught them how important it was to wash their hands and use gowns and masks to keep their germs from the babies.
Olive never saw such a tiny baby! Otis was brown and about the size of a mouse. Olive thought that he looked so helpless lying there and felt love in her heart for her little brother. She could understand why her parents needed to be with Otis. He was so small and needed a lot of help. She knew her parents loved her with all their hearts. They always told her what a special otter she was.
The room was quiet, the sound of the breathing machine whooshing, made Olive remember what her Grandma Goldie said about taking slow deep breaths to calm herself down. So, Olive began to breathe in time to the machine. After a few breaths, Olive felt all her fears and worries melt away. She couldn’t wait to tell her Grandma how calm she felt and thank her for teaching her how to feel better.
1). When you worry or feel afraid, where do you feel it in your body?
2). Take a few deep breaths! Breathe in through your nose like you are smelling a pretty flower and are filling your belly up like a balloon. Let that air out of your mouth slowly, like you are blowing bubbles. Discuss how that feels. Did you notice yourself feeling calmer?
3). If you feel worried about your brother or sister, tell your mom and dad about it. Describe what your worry feels like in your body.
About the Authors: Deb Timmerman and Beth Tuttle are co-creators of the Simply Successful Kids Program, a stress management and self-regulation program for kids. Their social emotional learning stories help open communications between children and parents and are also used in the classrooms.
This story was created for the West Michigan March for Babies Walk. March of Dimes has been and continues to be a leader in improving the health of mothers and babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.