About Sparky and Shady

Sparky and Shady is a wellbeing program for children, young people, parents, and educators.
It was founded in 2015 by Kathy Sheehan, a primary school teacher specialising in behaviour management. Four books were self-published between 2015 and 2017, including two non-fiction picture books and two accompanying teacher manuals. The program is listed on Beyond Blue (BeYou) as a social-emotional wellbeing program for ‘Kids’ (4-8 yrs), ‘Big Kids’ (9-12 yrs) and their parents and educators.

Kathy completed a Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) in 2022 and has recently updated the program. The new content is theory-informed, drawing on Cognitive Psychology (CBT), Behavioural Psychology (Conditioning), Health Psychology (importance of physical health), Positive Psychology (Mindfulness), Evolutionary Psychology (Autonomic Nervous System), Neuropsychology (Behaviour change), Humanistic Psychology (Hierarchy of Needs and Self-Actualisation) and Psychodynamic Psychology (Subconscious beliefs and Attachment Theory).

Despite its deep theoretical base, the program is simplistic and easy to apply in real-life situations. It is kid-friendly and relies on the imagination. As Albert Einstein said…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

The Basics

We are all human beings with a loving part of us ‘Sparky’ (an imaginary sun in our heart) and a scared part of us, ‘Shady’(an imaginary cloud in our head). We can interact with the loving and fearful parts of us when we imagine them as people we can talk to and listen to.

We have bodies, feelings, thoughts, personalities and our ‘best selves’ too. Sparky and Shady can be found in each of these parts of us.

We get to be our best selves when we get the right balance of Sparky and Shady to help us look after our bodies, feelings, thoughts and personalities.


To empower children and future generations to:
• Understand, love and accept themselves
• Manage fear
• Reduce anxiety
• Increase resilience
• Improve self-control (thoughts, feelings, words and behaviours)
• Create respectful and loving relationships
• Be their best selves and
• Live their best lives.

Clarifying Shady

Shady is not the ‘bad’ part of us. Humans need fear to keep us alive and safe and to protect us. However, Shady is the part of us that can lead to disrespectful behaviour. We choose how we meet our needs; unfortunately, some people in society choose fearful ways to do this to meet their needs.

The program is all about helping children and young people understand, accept and love Shady and to recognise when Shady is being helpful or harmful.

About Kathy

Kathy Sheehan
Wellbeing Teacher
Author and Founder of ‘Sparky and Shady’
Bachelor of Education (Behaviour Management)
Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours

Here’s my story…

On the first day of my fourth year of Uni, I ran into the back of a car on my motorbike and seriously injured my right leg. I broke it in 4 places and cut my knee open. The ambulance guys told me afterwards that they were surprised the surgeon didn’t amputate my lower leg. Over the next five years, I had a total of seven operations to get my leg as good as they could get it.

After one of those operations, I woke up from the anaesthetic, and my first thought was, “Why didn’t anyone teach me how I worked when I was a kid?”

I didn’t understand myself at all. My thoughts, feelings and behaviours were out of control, and I didn’t know how to manage myself. I decided I would find out how human beings worked and teach it to kids so they could fix themselves up if anything ever went wrong in their lives.

Over the next 22 years, I researched grief, human development, self-help, philosophy, and psychology to find answers. I finished my teaching degree with a major in behaviour management and taught in many different roles, including behaviour teacher and consultant, primary school teacher, assistant principal and acting principal. These roles were in public, private, Catholic, Christian and Steiner schools.

During this time, I came across many strategies to manage my thoughts and feelings, which I tried on myself, and on the students I worked with. I was continually disappointed that these strategies didn’t provide the long-term changes I hoped for.

One memorable day, around 2002, I was timetabled to support a particularly challenging student called Sam. He was a nine-year-old boy with a history of trauma. I knocked on his classroom door seconds after he had just thrown a chair across the room at his teacher. The teacher asked me to take him outside. Sam swore at the teacher, the class, and me before leaving the room, and then he ran down the playground yelling that he didn’t have to do anything I told him to.

I felt totally out of my depth as I sat down at a lunch table in the sun, closed my eyes and asked myself, “How can I help this kid?” I immediately felt a warm, loving feeling inside my body. I felt calm and peaceful, and it was as though everything would be okay. A couple of minutes later, I opened my eyes, and Sam was sitting across the table from me; he looked calm, too. He asked me, “Did you bring your handball?” When I said, “Yes”, he challenged me to a game of handball, and he won.

That was the day I met Sparky, my loving courage. For years, I’d asked myself, “How do I help kids? How do I help kids cope with problems? How do I help kids understand themselves? How do I help kids believe in themselves?” They say that if you ask a question long enough, you will eventually find the answer. Thanks to Sam, I did.