Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Book: Anchored

Anchored, a new picture book by Debra Tidball and Arielle Li, is a tale to buoy the heart of any child, parent or grandparent who has ever spent time apart from those they love.

Debra Tidball was inspired to write Anchored by the watercraft she observed on harbourside walks, especially the tugboats that send huge ships out into the open ocean and welcome them back again after long, sometimes perilous journeys. ‘As a parent, it made me think about the sustaining power of love — how holding someone in your heart can make you more courageous, and make the world seem like a better, brighter place despite not being together.’  

With social work qualifications and a master’s degree in children’s literature, Debra understands the vital role attachment plays in child development. In a world where many parents are separated from their children for periods of time due to work and/or living arrangements, a sense of attachment can feel stretched. Anchored is a reassuring book reminding children that the love they share with their parents/caregivers can sustain time apart: they are firmly anchored in each other’s hearts.

Arielle’s delightful illustrations bring the central characters of Tug and Ship to life in a way that will see them find a harbour in the hearts of families near and far.

What inspired you to write Anchored?

It started with a fascination with the working watercraft I saw on harbourside walks, and thinking about the tugboats that farewell and welcome back big ships. And how tugboats are small yet powerful.  Seeing the navy ships at Garden Island, made me think about when my father was away with the RAAF in Vietnam. So these thoughts all inspired the book, and I played with the idea of tugs being small yet powerful, which morphed from something physical, to something emotional that would ‘tug’ on reader’s hearts!

Why is a sense of attachment important to children?

Attachment is vital for a child’s development as it provides a safe base (dare I say anchor?!) from which they can explore the world. Being securely emotionally attached to a parent figure who protects and loves them allows children to venture into the world, knowing they can return for safety, security and comfort.  

What can we do, apart from reading them stories like Anchored to help children understand that separations are temporary?

I think security is built up by reliable behaviours over time. Being dependable. Having routines. So children know what to expect and when to expect it. Especially when it comes to things like picking up from preschool or school. Then if a child is worried, it can be helpful to be able to point to the ‘evidence’ of the temporary nature of separations. Sometimes giving a child an object that represents you to them, can be a physical reminder of your promise to return. 

However, I think Anchored speaks just as much to children managing the time apart from their parent/caregiver as much as assuring them of their return, by showing that out of sight is not out of mind. This can be reinforced by setting a time with your child when you will both be thinking of each other (especially if the time apart is protracted), or leaving little messages or stickers for them to find in their lunchbox (if it’s just for a day). These small actions can remind children that they are not forgotten.

Did you experience separation as a child? If so, what impact did that have you and your relationships?

Despite coming from a military family (father was in the RAAF) I had a stable and secure start to life in Malaysia where my family lived on the RAAF base. But when I was about six years old and we were living in Western Sydney, my dad was sent to Vietnam. I think this led to insecurity for all the family (my mother and two sisters and me). I’m sure I came across as clingy towards my mother and siblings during this separation, and I was a fearful child at night-time, scared of the dark and being alone in my bedroom. I used to sleep with the covers over my head – it’s a wonder I didn’t suffocate! These fears are not uncommon for children, but I wonder if they were intensified by Dad being away.

Having said that, I remember being wildly excited when I got a postcard from my dad, to know that he actually was thinking of me, and he brought home presents from overseas for me and my sisters that also helped cement that connection. I never doubted my parent’s love despite the impact that the Vietnam war had on our family.

Anchored is available April 2023. RRP $24.99. Buy it here.