It's a sad fact that a growing number of Kiwi tamariki are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders every year.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in five young New Zealanders will be affected by depression by the age of 18, while almost one in five meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by age 19.
These stats will have been exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown: a time of uncertainty, fear and health anxiety for many Kiwi families.
For young children especially, feelings of anxiety can be tough to vocalise and there are little resources to help them express their fears to parents or teachers, or self-regulate using specific mindfulness techniques.
A growing number of children's authors and illustrators have seen the increased need for books centering on the management of anxiety for children, producing stories based around breathing, meditation and self-regulation techniques.
Here are our top picks by local authors:
Hare & Ruru by Laura Shallcrass
Easily one of the most beautifully illustrated kids' books we've seen, this soon-to-be-released picture book follows Hare, who struggles to find quiet even in peaceful places, and goes on a journey to try and find a solution.
According to Shallcrass, Hare ultimately finds some ease using mindfulness tools like talking to others, connecting with nature, and focusing on breathing. There is also a Te Reo translation of the story in the book.
Hare & Ruru will be released in late September, but pre-orders can be taken via Shallcrass' website.
The Girl Who Was Scared of Everything by Emma Pascoe
Another book to help Kiwi kids navigate feelings of fear and anxiety, The Girl Who Was Scared Of Everything was written for nervous or shy kids aged two to eight, informed by Pascoe's own experiences with anxiety as a child.
Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the story follows Elaine, who struggles both emotionally and physically with her anxiety. When Elaine's friend Lou invites her to the zoo, both girls are forced to face their fears: Elaine of heading on an unknown outing to the zoo, and Lou of facing a giraffe - her biggest fear.
Pascoe says there's also a DIY section at the end of the book where kids can make a list of the support people in their lives they can go for help when they are feeling anxious or unsure.
This book can be found in local stores, or otherwise can be ordered online.
Aroha's Way by Bex Lopp
Released last year, this picture book takes children on a journey through emotions associated with anxiety and showcases simple yet effective ways to help manage them. Aroha is a young Māori girl who uses tools such as exercise, belly breathing, mindfulness and connecting with others to deal with her anxiety. These tools can teach children to normalise, understand and even develop their own tools for dealing with their feelings.
At the back of the book, there is a section for parents and/or teachers to explore the tools in more depth.
Aroha's Way is currently sold out, but pre-orders can be made online for the next shipment.