If you have a child affected by anxiety or illness, it can be tough to find the right words of comfort they'll understand.
Stats show New Zealand tamariki are more affected by mental health conditions than ever. 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.
For young children especially, feelings of anxiety can be tough to vocalise and there are few resources to help them express their fears to parents or teachers, or self-regulate using specific mindfulness techniques.
Most texts about managing anxiety or illness are directed toward adults who generally find it easier to comprehend the fact that our cortisol levels might be elevated due to work burnout, a pandemic, a caffeine addiction... the list goes on.
For children, those anxieties can be a lot more abstract and harder to put into words, and of course, harder to explain to them that things are going to be OK. 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 some of our top picks:
Courageous Lucy: The Girl Who Liked to Worry
This colourful picture book sees Lucy worrying about everything and anything. She's so skilled at worrying that she worries about new and interesting things no one else even thinks about! But when her teacher tells the class there is going to be a school musical, Lucy decides she wants to be a part of it - even though she's too worried to try out for any of the parts. Courageous Lucy doesn't ignore anxiety in children, instead shows that one tiny step outside your comfort zone is sometimes all it takes to be courageous.
From two award-winning Kiwi authors, this book gives children tools for dealing with uncomfortable emotions; apprehension, worrying thoughts and nervousness with ways to 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.
Pear of Hope
Written for children dealing with the uncertainty of illness, this story follows the seasonal changes of a pear tree at the bottom of Anna's garden. When Anna becomes ill, her relationship with the tree provides comfort and peace on her journey, particularly when she plants a seed from one of the tree's pears. Pear of Hope is the story of a little girl with cancer and her tale of recovery. Told through sensitive words, the gentle story will inspire and comfort children, regardless of their journey.
Go Away Worry Monster!
The night before starting his new school, Archie is visited by the Worry Monster, who has all sorts of reasons why it might go wrong. Archie feels so anxious that his head hurts, his tummy flutters and his heart pounds. He soon realises the only way to feel better is to make Worry Monster go away. He does his belly breaths and faces facts to challenge his inner fears.