Friday, December 10, 2010

Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents

Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me: Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents
By: Laurie Zelinger, PhD & Jordan Zelinger
illustrated by Elisa Sabella
Published by: Loving Healing Press   Date: 2010     
ISBN: 978-1-61599-029-0 (paperback); 978-1-61599-051-1 (hardcover)
Price: $21.95 (paperback); $32.95 (hardcover)
Ages:  8-12
Rating:  5 stars
Reviewed by: Nancy Messmore

Synopsis: Dinosaurs reacted to their environment with anxiety.  It was a way to alert them that they needed to fight or run away from danger.  Today, we have the same reaction to stress but most of the time we aren’t in peril like the dinosaurs were.  So how do we deal with those feelings when there isn’t a real emergency?  According to the authors, “you can train your brain!”  Simple rhymes are offered to help remember how to calm down. 

Overall thoughts: Dinosaurs have universal appeal to children.  By choosing dinosaurs to explain anxiety, the authors have hooked their readers on page one.  Further discussion of the biology and psychology of anxiety is explained in terms accessible to even preschool children without condescending.  As the story concludes, four rhymes are presented to help remind an anxious mind to calm down.  The authors also recommend that children re-read the book to determine which ideas will work best for each individual.  In fact, Dr. Zelinger offers a letter of personal experience at the beginning of the book to let children know that she has felt the same things they have felt.  In conclusion, a note to parents offers further resources to help children overcome struggles with anxiety issues.

Sabella’s illustrations are gentle yet accurately portray the emotions expressed in the text.  The use of an on-off switch to depict the sympathetic nervous system is carried throughout the book—from the dinosaurs to the child who is working on the rhymes to train his or her brain.  What a terrific visual for children who may not grasp the concept of changing thought patterns!

As a parent of an anxious child, I immediately recognized the power of this book.  The authors have offered personal experience, accessible explanations of the biologic response, and realistic exercises to overcome the feelings of anxiety.  While I imagine the book was written for early elementary aged students, I believe it can be effective with preschoolers as well as older children.  My child is a tween and I think she will benefit from the simple explanation of her anxiety as well as the rhymes to remind her to distract herself from her irrational thoughts.


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