JoCo counselor’s new children’s book teaches kids (and adults) that ‘it’s okay not to be okay’

Local counselor Carron Montgomery, seated in black shirt, wrote a children's book, "The Invisible Riptide," to help explain what she calls the "silent emotional tsunami" facing young people these days and how they can re-connect and re-regulate their emotions. Image via Lisa Hoffman.

Carron Montgomery had firsthand experience seeing how the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the mental health of children and families, so she wrote a book about it.

“The Invisible Riptide” is a children’s book meant to help young readers and their families deal with what Montgomery calls the “silent emotional tsunami” of mental health challenges facing kids these days, an issue that was present before March 2020 but has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Montgomery hosted a book signing at The Learning Tree near Mission Road and 83rd Street in Prairie Village Tuesday afternoon.

“‘The Invisible Riptide” was actually not planned, it was born out of working seven days a week for a year and a half,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery, a 2000 Shawnee Mission East graduate, works as a licensed professional counselor at Aster Counseling in Kansas City, Mo., on State Line Road and 83rd Street.

She says the idea for “The Invisible Riptide” first came to her when she began noticing around the start of the pandemic a need for emotional education for both kids and adults.

“There was a lack of connection happening, which was creating a lot of significant feelings of loneliness and isolation,” Montgomery said. “Children were talking to each other about these feelings, but no adults were teaching or talking to them.”

The book is illustrated by David Gentile, who has turned to drawing since retiring in 2014 as president of Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas City

Montgomery said both the words and pictures are meant to convey the feeling of isolation she says many of her young patients experience.

“A lot of the pictures are a bit more metaphorical to show that being alone in your head is confusing and difficult, and that connection is key,” Montgomery said.

While the book story is written in the style of a classic children’s picture book, Montgomery said many adults have told her they too relate to its message.

“It teaches that it’s okay not to be okay, and I think a lot of adults can relate to that,” Montgomery said.

Ultimately, the author said, her goal with this book has been to validate those feelings of isolation and loneliness, while teaching both children and parents healthy ways to cope with them.

Since launching “The Invisible Riptide,” Montgomery has partnered with Prairie Village-based child psychologist Caroline Danda to create a series of books called “The Invisible Riptide Series.”

The pair is currently working on the next book in that series, “From Surviving to Vibing: Filling in the Gaps,” which focuses on the mental health of teens and is slated for publication early next year.