The Case of the "What Ifs?"
A Book Review of Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree
Pandemic panic aside, anxiety disorders are the most common psychological issue among children. Anxiety has been on the rise in our society for many years. Anxiety and worry are a normal part of childhood, but it can become more severe in some children. This book, Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, is excellent for children within the whole spectrum of anxiety, from everyday worries to severe disturbances. This book will help children name and understand their feelings of anxiety as well as learn to cope with it.
The author, Gail Silver, utilizes a tree as an analogy for anxiety, with beautiful writing as follows:
"like a seed from underground, it sprouts alive, unleashed, unbound. With knarled roots, this kind of tree feeds on thoughts ..." The story begins as Bea, in anticipation of her birthday party, is bombarded with thoughts of "What if ..." "What if nobody comes? What if we didn't bake enough cake?" These "what if ..." questions are very common in all of our thoughts when anxiety starts to take hold.
Through Bea, Ms. Silver does a thorough job in describing the physical sensations in our bodies when we are feeling anxious. This is an important step in helping children recognize and name their feelings, which is crucial to coping. She then takes children through a meditation process, including deep breathing and slowing down thoughts in order to choose what to think about. Repetition of words is used in the text to show Bea slowly calming herself down and quieting her irrational thoughts as she is employing her coping skills.
Franziska Hollbacher, the illustrator, follows the mood of the story beautifully through her illustrations. Initially the vines of the tree are taking over. Slowly these vines recede and the illustrations become more and more calm and then full of fun energy as the birthday party begins.
This book includes a Note to Parents, written by a psychologist, which includes helpful information on how to use this book, information on understanding anxiety in children, how parents can help, and when to seek professional help.
I strongly recommend this book for all children ages 4-8, whether struggling with temporary, everyday worries or with an ongoing anxiety disorder. Check out other books on emotions by Gail Silver at https://gailsilver.com/books-and-more/.
I have included additional resources below and an activity to further help your child with their worries and anxieties.
Activity and Resources for Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree
Belly breathing is the most important skill to acquire and not easy to teach young children - here are a couple of links to videos to help teach belly breathing to kids
Relaxation/Meditation/Mindfulness - an abundance of apps are available on Iphone or Ipad with meditation/mindfulness exercises for kids. A few of the higher rated apps are:
Stop, Breathe and Think Kids
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street (for the younger crowd)
Calm (has a specialized kid's section)
pinwheel template https://www.firstpalette.com/printable/pinwheel.html
Paper (cardstock works best)can use colored paper or white
unused pencil with eraser
push pin or tack
crayons or markers
glue -strong glue is helpful
bead or small button
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