The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following interview was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.
This month’s spotlight interview is with Dr. James J. Crist, a psychologist specializing in children with ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders, and the author of several classic Free Spirit resources including What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried and What to Do When You’re Cranky & Blue. Widely known for his kind and kid-friendly writing, Dr. Crist is known around Free Spirit headquarters as the author who receives the most fan mail from readers. His latest book, The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends, is a prime example of his compassionate, caring personality.
Q: What prompted you to write The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends?
James J. Crist: I have worked with so many kids over the years who struggle with making and keeping friends that I thought a resource was needed. With today’s kids spending so much time in front of screens such as TV and video games, and having less unstructured play time, they don’t get the experience they need to learn how to get along with others and work out conflicts. I also enjoy keeping in touch with friends and organizing get togethers, so I decided to use that experience to teach kids how to do this as well.
Q: How do you hope to impact children with this book?
JC: My hope is that kids will learn lots of valuable skills to be able to develop friendships that can potentially last a lifetime. It’s sad to see how many people don’t maintain friendships, which I find to be one of the greatest joys of life. By teaching kids specific social skills, such as how to introduce yourself, start a conversation, get to know others, and keep a conversation going, you can help them in many ways, including to feel more confident and happier in their daily lives.
Q: What books inspired you most as a child?
JC: I was a big fan of science fiction as a kid. I also liked the Hardy Boys series, which involved kids working together to solve crimes and mysteries.
Q: Did you make friends easily as a kid? What advice would you give to kid Jamie?
JC: Yes, and no. I was very shy as a child and even though I had friends, it was hard to get up the courage to talk to people I didn’t know. It wasn’t until my high school years that I developed a close circle of friends, some of whom I still see when we all return to our hometown over the holidays. As far as advice, I would have told “kid Jamie” to ask himself, “What’s the worst that can happen if you go up to someone and start talking?”
Q: What was your favorite thing about school as a kid?
JC: Lunch, music class, and the closing bell for the rest of the day. Seriously, I did enjoy learning as a kid. Even though I was shy, I did manage to get the lead part in a few school musicals. In high school, I played cards with friends a lot during lunch and that was fun.
Q: What was your least favorite thing about school as a kid?
JC: Gym class and recess. I wasn’t very athletic and was usually picked last for any team sports. I wish that gym classes taught more life fitness skills that were not so competitive, such as aerobics, yoga, and even weightlifting.
Q: What makes you a “Free Spirit”?
JC: I’m learning to “go with the flow” a lot more. It’s actually very freeing to be able to let things go, not let little things get to you, not get bogged down with anger and resentment, and focus on what is most important. Letting others be free spirits, too, instead of having to conform to what your expectations of them are, helps as well!
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing books for kids?
JC: Getting letters from readers all over the world telling me about their problems and how my books have helped them is one of the most rewarding things about writing. Knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of others gives my life meaning.
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