JK Rox is a counselor and author of three children’s books that focus on supporting children’s mental health during times of change or conflict in their lives. The Surprise Inside tells the story of a little boy trying to figure out and then come to grips with the new life growing in his mother’s belly. Just Kick Rocks confronts bullying and allows children to choose from three different endings to test out the consequences of different decisions. When Daddy’s Gone: Dealing with Grief from a Child’s Perspective introduces readers to a lighthearted, happy little boy whose father is suddenly gone. She offers us valuable insights on how adults can support the healthy emotional development of the children they care for.
Jambo: JK Rox is your pen name. Can you tell us where it came from?
Rox: I wanted to do something to carry on the legacy of my mother and cousin that transitioned 2 years apart. My cousin, Jonathan; and mother, Karen both had an impact on their community and peers. So as I thought about them, I thought how cool they are, how they rock. And just like that JK Rox was created.
Jambo: How did you make the transition from counselor to children’s book author?
Rox: I still do both! When my cousin was murdered, he left behind a 3 year old. While I listened to his mom explain to him what was going on, I wanted to provide him materials that could help him during this time. As a counselor, I just knew there were books out there for him. However, I struggled finding books for him that had characters that looked like him and that he could relate to. There were no stories that read like his. In that moment, I decided to write one of my own. From there I began to write on other topics that are hard for kids to talk about.
“My greatest advice to parents is to imagine your child struggling emotionally and you not being there to walk them through this process. They begin to talk to their friends who also have limited understanding of these topics, and resort to self medicating as a way to not address it at all. But, if we can learn to be open and honest, then we can guide our kids to a healing place.”-JK Rox
Jambo: What ages of children do you work with?
Rox: I work with all ages, from 5-18 years (and beyond).
Jambo: Your books cover Very Important Subjects like death that sometimes caregivers are reticent to discuss with their children. How do you suggest the hesitant ones among us talk to kids about difficult topics?
Rox: We have to first acknowledge that these topics are things that kids often have to deal with and go through with limited ability to process. My greatest advice to parents is to imagine your child struggling emotionally and you not being there to walk them through this process. They begin to talk to their friends who also have limited understanding of these topics, and resort to self medicating as a way to not address it at all. But, if we can learn to be open and honest, then we can guide our kids to a healing place.
Jambo: Should caregivers wait until a death happens to spark the difficult conversation or should we prime our kids ahead of time?
Rox: I believe we should talk about the life cycle and be honest with what this looks like. Use your faith as a way for explanation. I often talk to my own kids about being connected no matter where a person is. To always know that we can hold them in our hearts. Learn to connect with people spiritually.
Jambo: I suspect that the better the caregiver’s relationship is with the child, the easier it is to have Very Important Conversations. What are some ways you suggest caregivers lay the groundwork so that their relationships are fertile ground for growing strong, well-adjusted children?
Rox: Be open and honest with them. Listen to what kids have to say. Respond in love and kindness; not in fear and rejection. Kids watch our every moves, secretly listen to our conversations, and watch how we respond to others. They are making their own conclusions. We have to be the first ones to talk to them and navigate this world for them.
Jambo: It seems that with so much anti-bullying outreach, bullying should be a thing of the past. What does bullying look like in our schools and neighborhoods today?
Rox: Bullying is physical, mental and verbal abuse, language or just anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s kids on social media spreading rumors, posting inappropriate pictures of others or making derogatory comments. Our kids begin to compare themselves to what others have, and if you don’t have the “things” or “qualities” that others have, some kids tease others. People are still hurting and find other people to hurt in order to feel better. It’s that same thing we have heard before, “misery loves company”.
Jambo: When I asked my nephew about bullying at his high school, he told me that bullying didn’t happen because kids argued with each other, so the back and forth nature of the interaction meant it wasn’t bullying. What is your take on that?
Rox: That is his perception. But it does not mean that bullying does not happen. That means for him, that people are able to stand up for themselves more. We would need to look further to see how the words of what someone says affects the person. Then we can measure what is really happening. However, I do see that as being a start to ending bullying. When kids are no longer afraid to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, this is a start.
Jambo: Does bullying look different between boys and girls?
Rox: I believe bullying can look different. From my experience talking with girls, I have seen more exclusion, verbal and mental tangents. However, girls can be physical too. From my experience talking to boys, I see more physical aggression from boys, but have heard of boys spreading rumors and talking down to other girls and boys also, especially with social media. Bullying is beginning to look the same between both boys and girls.
Click here for a 4 minute video of JK Rox (Shamika Battle-Packer) being interviewed on Fox 5 Atlanta’s Parent Week about bullying.
Jambo: How can people find your books?
Rox: Please visit my website at jkrox.com and message me to be added on the email list. My books are listed on my site; as well as on Amazon.
Jambo: What is next on your creative plate?
Rox: Oh, I have so much up my sleeve. A topic that has been on my mind for quite some time is sex trafficking. I want to provide a platform for kids to come and talk about this and learn how to identify sign, stay safe and empower themselves. Also, a series of books on bullying that will address suicide, intimidation/coersion and the mind of the bully.
Jambo: Who are some of the authors who have influenced you?
Rox: I must say Candace Christina. I was overwhelmed and floored when I read her book, Summer of Seven. Her creative inspiration inspired me and encouraged me to go the self publishing route. Other writers, Kiyandrea Graham, Robert Munsch, women of WEMAC, but most importantly all of the young kids in my life that have encouraged and compelled me to write stories through their eyes.
Jambo: Can you share with us some of the authors and artists that you follow on Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook?
Rox: I mostly follow local and/or self published authors, as well as those I may come across that inspire me. Here are a few:
The Writers Broker (Candace Christina)
Butter Bird Books and so many more.
More well known ones such as Maraakil, BigLifeJournal, Iyanlavanzant
Jambo: Thank you for your time. We can’t wait to hear more from you.