By Josh Saunders
A mum is making miniature parents and family members to help children to overcome anxiety.
Debbie Lynn Rutkowski, 39, from Buffalo, New York, first painted her face onto a bead to help her son Nathan, aged five, who was nervous about starting kindergarten.
By sending him to school with a mini-replica of herself, clipped onto his belt hole and tucked into his pocket, he felt more at ease knowing she was there with him.
Within a year she had started Pocket People and now three-years-on has made more than 500 for children dealing with separation anxiety to losing a loved one and more.
She believes the tiny tokens can help to reassure and comfort people of all ages, noting that her son, now nine, used it up until 1st grade and then sporadically during periods of stress.
It takes her an hour to complete each one, which she customises to look like the family member muse with skin tone, hair colour and even accessories like glasses, facial hair and more.
The single mum-of-two sells the creations for $8 (£6.30) online but maintains the main gift is knowing that it helps people.
Debbie said: “Nathan was extremely anxious about going to kindergarten I made it so he could take me with him.
“He and I were quite connected, he is just a very sweet loving kid, so was very unsure of himself when going to school as he was a very young five-year-old.
“I wondered if I could make a tiny version of me, something discreet that he could hide if he was not comfortable showing it.
“I wanted to do something for him and I did see a big difference in him, he would ask for it every day and it gave him comfort.
“When friends got wind of it, they were supportive and then I had strangers asking for friends of friends.
“I got a lot of feedback saying how much children loved it and that they didn’t cry when being sent to school.
“One lady bought one for my daughter who went to college, as she felt uncomfortable taking her favourite blanket.
“They are not just for little kids but for adults, autistic children and others.
“They have been used in every way to help with divorce, anxiety, separation anxiety, separation from military parents and more.”
Debbie recalls the difficulty knowing that despite the distress of her son, she would have to send him to school.
After developing the first Pocket Person for her son, she noticed how relieved he became.
Debbie said: “I wanted to tell him that he didn’t have to go to school because he was so nervous and scared but you can’t do that, you have to send them.
“You end up feeling like the worst mom ever, but I knew I was there with him through the creation.”
Since launching Pocket People, Debbie has noticed that the little creations can be used to help a wide range of issues.
These include: divorce and separation, traveling parents, extended hospital stays, lost loved ones, school anxiety, night terrors, best friend bonds, sibling bonds, and more.
She hopes one day to introduce them into hospitals and schools.
Debbie said: “Anyone can use it anyway they want, besides from eating it or feeding it to an animal.
“One grandma told me that her grandchildren would lose their minds when they left for vacation, so she bought a set of herself and her husband for all of them and it helped a lot.
“It’s been great connecting with parents and knowing that something so small is making such a difference.”
For her son, Debbie found the Pocket Person to be a useful tool to help him through stressful periods.
He would go onto use it through kindergarten, half way through first grade and then two weeks after starting at a new school.
Now nine-year-old Nathan is an advocate of them and often explains how they helped him to strangers.
Debbie said: “Nathan was so proud and happy. I’m grateful it came full circle, I gave him a gift when he needed it then it continued to be a gift to him.
“Now he is nine-years-old but is involved in the process, he is happy to help other kids as he knows what it’s like and can articulate how it helped him.
“He has always been compassionate, but it helped his self-esteem so much, it’s taught him not to be so nervous and to be able to talk to people.
“It gives him a sense of purpose being able to help others around him.”
To find out more or to buy one visit: www.mypocketpeople.com.