Sarah from The Puffin Diaries has reviewed Starving the Anxiety Gremlin available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
I have been using this book with both my children over the last couple of months, a boy aged 9 and a boy aged 10.
I initially worked with my youngest son, as he was having a great deal of anxiety around going to school. He has always struggled to verbalise his emotions and often hides his feels and emotions. I hoped the book would help use explore some vocabulary and narrative on what he has been experiencing each day in the school environment.
The book aims to offer a cognitive behavioural approach to managing anxiety, suitable for those 10 years and above (I was aware my youngest wasn’t quite the right age but hoped we could pick the bits out that were suitable).
The book suggests that it can be used by the young person to work through or alongside an adult or professional. I think the child would need to be at least a couple of years older than my children to be able to make good use of the book independently.
My 9 year old and I started at the beginning, reading the introduction. By the second page my son was engaged with the content. Here speech bubbles suggesting different ways a child may feel when anxious offered an opportunity to yes or no to how he might be feeling.
BOOK : “Do you feel like you have no control over how you react when you are anxious?”
SON : “Yes”
So a good start.
The book goes on to describe what anxiety is and what different types of anxiety exist. Some of this content, as throughout the book, is aimed at older children. For example self harming, drinking and drug abuse are listed as behaviours that anxiety may induce. However I did find it easy to skirt around these and lots of the other content was very relevant and useful to discuss.
We did the anxiety word search together and also did a really good work sheet on colouring in the physical anxieties attributes which are relevant to you.
In fact the whole chapter on identifying what YOUR own anxiety is, was a good interactive experience which really helped me to understand a lot more about how my son feels.
It really highlighted his separation anxiety from me, which previously I hadn’t considered to be the real problem. I presumed that the school environment was the problem.
With my 9 year old we are still working our way through the book, choosing the sections that are suitable for his level of emotional maturity, which really is younger than 9. I think he may not be fully able, as yet to grasp the concept of CBT, however we are still reading some sections and doing the bits he’s happy to do, it can’t do any harm. I’m sure we will come back to it all as he develops.
I have also now started working on this book with my soon to be 11 year old son. He is off to high school in September and whilst he is excited now, I know he will develop anxiety over the prospect over the summer. I think the book will be pitched at a level that he is mature enough to understand; he has a greater emotional intelligence than my youngest son. He enjoys the prospect of discussing his emotions and is asking when we can do more work together.
On the whole I think this book is an excellent tool for prompting discussion around anxiety, explaining anxiety to a child and teaching them how to manage this response to situations.
As yet we have not completed the book and therefore can’t vouch for its complete effectiveness. However, I’m a true believer that even if our children take a small amount of what we’ve worked from and translate it into their lives, then we have had a success. As we have already created a greater understanding of this emotion and prompted discussion, I would say this book is a great success for our family.