I just read a wonderful picture book about anxiety in children! If only my sisters had been able to read Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents by Laurie Zelinger, PhD and Jordan Zelinger when they were growing up. Both my sisters, and, as a consequence, my parents, and the other four siblings struggled and suffered for years because of their overwhelming anxiety. As soon as I had read a few sentences of Dr. Laurie Zelinger’s Introduction, I knew this book is the answer to many parents’ prayers. It is a resource to help adults describe anxiety in a way that children can understand.
I thank and congratulate the authors for doing an excellent job of writing a book that helps children to understand and process fear, worry, and anxiety. Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! is a family-friendly story complete with colourful, realistic illustrations by Elisa Sabella that support the text on each page. It has advice for parents to help them help their child. Best of all it has self-care strategies that children can rely on to help them turn their internal worry switches to the OFF position.
Anxiety in Children
Immediately the reader knows Dr. Laurie, the Feeling Doctor and a mom of four, has walked in their shoes and they can trust her advice about anxiety in children. This quote in her Introduction could have been written by both my sisters, “I hated worrying and wanted to be just like everyone else. I always had a stomach ache and didn’t know why.” Further along she writes, “If something scares us, we can feel our heart beat louder and harder, we breathe faster, feel shaky and our hands might get sweaty. Sometimes we get a head ache or dizzy and almost always a stomach ache or a feeling like we’re going to throw up.” Then another sentence was exactly what my sisters’ explained when they were grownups and finally shared their painful childhoods, “It feels like something bad is going to happen and it’s hard to think of anything else or pay attention in school.”
How do the authors make their explanation simple enough that this book falls under “Juvenile literature”? The authors compare our upset nervous system to those of small dinosaurs when huge, meat eating dinosaurs threatened them. They compare the “freeze, flight or fight” scenario the small dinosaurs had to contend with, with our own responses to our “pretend emergency”, when our body is reeving up to save us from danger except there is NO real danger. It is just our body tricking us and making our brain worry and our body work hard on the inside. And this feeling is called, “anxiety” or unnecessary worry. Many children experience physical symptoms when they worry; therefore, those stomach aches are real.
The authors are very understanding and able to get down to their target audience’s level. They assure the reader that everyone gets scared of different things and at different times. They counsel their reader to confide in a grown-up when they feel afraid. They show the youngster words to express his feelings: being really, really scared, being nervous, being worried, or being anxious. The authors open the door to anxiety in families being hereditary and tell the reader, “If we feel it a lot, chances are that other people in our family do too.” This makes it possible to have frank discussions about how others in our family feel and perhaps talk with them also.
What suggestions do the authors have for parents to help their child fight anxiety?
The Zelingers take six pages, each supported by superb illustrations, to give anxious children strategies and ideas on actions to take to help them get rid of their anxiety. Readers are even given some rhymes to help them remember their suggestions. Here are two of these very simple but effective techniques:
- TALK or WALK! Helps you remember that you can talk to a grown-up you trust. You can also change where you are and walk to another place. If you’re inside then go outside, or the other way around.
- RELAX—JUMPING JACKS! Helps you remember you can relax your body by listening to a special CD or you can speed it up so that it will calm down by itself when you stop exercising.
Youths will really appreciate the authors’ writing style. They speak directly to the young person reading or listening to the book being read. The idea is to re-read it and share it many times until their hopeful messages like these are learnt, “Grownups who love you want you to feel safe and calm and happy. And you will feel better when you learn to control your own switch.”
In their Note to Parents, the authors advise that sometimes anxiety in children may be a more serious mental health concern that has to be brought to the attention of a licensed mental health professional.
I highly recommend Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents by Laurie Zelinger, PhD and Jordan Zelinger with illustrations by Elisa Sabella! It is one of my favourite Juvenile books that I have reviewed. There are a lot of anxious kids out there who will have a happier childhood all because of this book.
Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! Is among the Loving Healing Press books in their The Growing with Love Series – Redefining what is possible for healing young minds and spirits
Dr. Laurie Zelinger earned a Doctoral degree in psychology from Hofstra University and went on to earn her credentials as a Registered Play Therapist/Supervisor from the Association for Play Therapy. She and her psychologist husband, Dr. Fred Zelinger have raised four sons. As a certified school psychologist, private practice licensed psychologist, and registered play therapist, she is treating increasing numbers of children with anxiety. She believes that honest and correct information, given at a child’s developmental level in “kid-friendly” language, will help a youngster understand the link between body and feelings, the first step in symptom relief. Learn more about her at her Website.
Jordan Zelinger is a recent graduate of Union College where he earned his BS degree in neuroscience and is now pursuing his doctoral degree in School-Clinical Child Psychology at Pace University in New York City. He collaborated with his mother on this, his first book, drawing upon his background in psychology and biology. Learn more about Jordan on his LinkedIn page.
About the Illustrator
Elisa Sabella is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. Elisa would like to become a full time illustrator, writing and drawing stories for a living. This is her first book. Learn more about Elisa on her Website.
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