8 Jul 2015

Christchurch kids taught to swap worries for wishes

6:39 am on 8 July 2015
Illustration from the book Wishes and Worries

Wishes for Worries is aimed at Christchurch children struggling with anxiety over the earthquakes. Photo: Supplied/Wishes and Worries

Wishes and Worries for use in class-rooms and Maia and the Worry Bug for children to take home, discuss the issue of anxiety and give parents and teachers the tools to manage it.

With funding from the Canterbury Community Trust, the two books will be distributed for free to 23,000 children next term.

Canterbury, Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts students from new entrants up to year four will receive the books.

Author Sarina Dickson, who is also a trained teacher, was inspired to pen the books after struggling to find a way to help her daughter, who was dealing with anxiety.

"It is difficult to explain [but] she was so overwhelmed with anxiety that everything was always stressful, she was playing up a lot."

"She wanted to wear her bike helmet in class for a year, because she was so frightened the roof would fall on her," she said.

Sarina Dickson, author of Wishes and Worries and Maia and the Worry Bug

Author Sarina Dickson was inspired to write the books after her own daughter suffered from anxiety. Photo: Supplied

Ms Dickson's family is not alone; A survey last year by mental health initiative, All Right?, set up by the Canterbury District Health board and the Mental Health Foundation, found one in four Christchurch residents still felt overwhelmed.

Ms Dickson teamed up with psychologist Julie Burgess-Manning.

Ms Burgess-Manning said she hopes the two books will bring teachers and parents together to help kids to deal with anxiety in new ways.

"Anxiety is tough on parents as well as children - it can manifest in numerous ways and is easy to mistake for bad behaviour."

Julie Burgess-Manning, psychologist

Psychologist Julie Burgess-Manning said sleep issues, trouble paying attention, obsessive behaviour and rudeness can be linked to anxiety. Photo: Supplied

She said things like sleep issues, an inability to pay attention, obsessive behaviour or even rudeness can be linked to anxiety.

All Right? Mental Health Promoter Ciaran Fox said research showed that as children reach their teenage years, stress and anxiety only got worse, so conversations needed to start earlier.

"Our research asked parents about their children and about a third of them said they were experiencing anxiety."

"The books are amazing, I think this is very necessary in Canterbury at the moment. The stories provide great messages for children and families," he said.

Help

If you would like to know more about anxiety and how to manage it, visit All Right or The Worry Bug websites.

If you would like to talk to someone, call the Canterbury Support Line on 0800 777 846.

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