Kiwi author helping kids Feel Brave

Feel Brave
Feel Brave

Tens of thousands of Kiwi kids are grappling with depression and anxiety -- and the numbers are even worse in the United Kingdom.

Avril McDonald, a New Zealander now living in the UK, is trying to help children deal with a range of emotions from death to being excluded through a series of books called Feel Brave.

"If something is scary or cruel or unkind you can change how you feel with your magical mind," she tells children at an Essex school -- wise words for small people dealing with big emotions.

"Just being in such a distracted, stressful world, it's actually hard for them to shut down when they're bombarded with so much information from connected devices," says Ms McDonald.

Drawing inspiration from all sorts, including the Kapiti Coast where she's from and motivational guru Tony Robbins, Ms McDonald has written a series of children's books designed to help kids cope.

The Feel Brave books deal not just with worries but bullying, death, being left out and being scared.

If the schoolchildren in Essex are anything to go by, the books are a hit.

"I liked all of them," said one child.

"That was really great -- amazing, amazing, amazing," exclaimed another.

Ms McDonald gets anxiety and had her first panic attack aged eight, a time when there was very little information to help her understand.

"I felt very alone with it and just thought I was crazy," she says.

And while there may be more information now, there's also arguably more to contend with.

In New Zealand, 4 percent of under 14 have been diagnosed with emotional or behavioural issues -- that's 32,000 Kiwi children dealing with things like anxiety and depression.

But is there a risk that Ms McDonald is displacing adult emotions onto children?

"I think what I'm trying to do is just the real simple stuff -- how to calm down, how to deal with fear, how to deal with a situation when kindness is needed -- practicing empathy," she says.

Lessons and emotions not just reserved for children -- helpful reminders for one and all, big and small.