Helping Fearful Children at Home and School
Reviewed by Lorie Shiveley
Stress is a part of all of our lives. How we deal with it determines our mental and physical health. Dr. Peters, a highly specialized psychologist, writes an informative guide to help parents and teachers assist children and students cope with anxiety. While I believe this book would benefit younger children the most, there are strategies useful for teens as well.
The text is divided by chapters beginning with common everyday explanations of the “Worry Monster” and the scientific aspects of our brain and thinking responses. Peters then writes about the types of anxieties that exist and possible interventions or the “toolbox that he [the child] can carry with him wherever he goes so that he is ready to fight the Worry Monster.”
Peters offers anonymous vignettes of several clients to assist the reader in identifying the irrational or worrisome thoughts of the children and then provides a plan he would recommend. He includes steps for the reader to make a plan for his/her own child.
Finally, Peters recognizes special groups of learners, as well as adults, and describes how his strategies will benefit these groups of people. I found it very helpful that Dr. Peters included a Things to Remember bulleted list and a Things to Do list at the end of each chapter.
What I found useful in the book
As a parent of three teenagers, I began to identify some of the anxieties exhibited at home and to learn some coping strategies for them. I have also used several of Dr. Peters’ interventions with my eighth grade students.
One very successful intervention I shared with a student is Staying in the Present. For this strategy, you remind the child to do her best to stay focused on what she can control right now. Grace (pseudonym) came to me upset about being bullied by a peer. I asked her: “Is there something you can do about it? Because if there is, then you need to do something. If there isn’t, then you need to stop worrying about it because it is out of your control.”
She felt she had no control over the situation. But after talking through some possible remedies, she decided there was something she could do about her problem that would make her worries go away. Grace confronted the boy who was bullying her, keeping her attention in the present rather than worrying about what might happen next. This was not easy for her, but a few class periods later, Grace came to me with a smile and a hug. She confronted him, and he apologized! While I know it is not always this easy, Grace’s worries were now eliminated.
Another strategy that worked with teens
Some strategies may require more practice and modeling. I used Positive Self-Talk with my senior in high school. She had to take a specific exam which would determine whether or not she earned her Cosmetology license. She was very anxious about this exam, especially because she has dyslexia. The morning of the assessment, I began sending her text messages (thank goodness for technology) that included words of encouragement but also reminded her to talk to herself in a positive way.
I used a little bit of Staying in the Present as well. I asked her, “Did you study?” Of course, she did. “Did you study as well as you could?” Again, she did. I helped her realize she was prepared for the exam, and she needed to let the worries go and believe she could pass. In addition, I also coached her to control her breathing which would result in more oxygen to her brain, therefore, allowing her to relax. She passed the exam!
While much of From Worrier to Warrior is geared for use with younger children in my opinion, there are valuable tools for teens and adults. Dr. Peters wrote some very wise words worth quoting: “… the Worry Monster is fundamentally a bully. He bullies us into thinking certain things, feeling certain things, and then behaving in certain ways, which are counterproductive for our lives.” It is our job to eliminate the Worry Monster, so we can be happy and successful.
NOTE: Daniel Peters has also written a companion book, From Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears, which is intended for tweens and teens to read. Make Your Worrier a Warrior earned a Gold Medal in the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Lorie Shiveley, a National Board Certified Teacher, currently teaches eighth grade Language Arts. She has held a variety of teaching positions instructing elementary, middle school, and undergraduate education students. Her passion for assisting students to become the best they can possibly be has kept her in the teaching profession for over twenty years. Recently, two of Shiveley’s own books were published: Chester Church Mouse and Lent and Chester Church Mouse and Ash Wednesday.