Children’s wellbeing book helps young children to cope with worries and anxiety. 

A creative project started during the peak of Covid last year has evolved into a tool to support children struggling with worry and anxiety.

Art psychotherapist O’Donoghue is the author and illustrator of children’s book The Little Squirrel Who Worried, a story begun while she was working last year in London and Essex for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) UK.

The Little Squirrel Who Worried

The story is about Little Squirrel who hasn’t left his nest since last autumn. He needs to gather nuts for the long winter ahead but is too worried to leave his cosy nest. Luckily, he discovers many friends in the forest: Wren, Snuffly Hedgehog, Grey Rabbit, Mister Fox, Old Badger and Great Stag.

O’Donoghue says each animal character plays a role in illustrating anxiety’s effects and how to cope with these. “Hedgehog shows the physical and emotional impact of anxiety. Grey Rabbit illustrates the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory grounding method and Old Badger teaches a visual relaxation technique,” she says.  Also featuring is Mister Fox who, she says, illustrates the use of a worry jar, helping children to put a boundary around worries, thereby containing them. Great Stag teaches us to challenge our thoughts, figuring out which thoughts are real and need attention – and which aren’t real and how we can change these to make them kinder to ourselves, she says.

O’Donoghue’s book has been endorsed for its therapeutic impact by the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists. Gill Books director Nikki Howard says the story made her think of her own mother, cocooning for over a year. “[She] has needed a little coaxing to come out as lockdown came to an end.”

“We’re social beings but we’ve had to put ourselves on hold,” says O’Donoghue, who recalls the social anxiety many of her young clients felt returning to school post-lockdown and now may feel with all this new uncertainty. “It’s about taking small steps – and respecting others and where they’re at in their process of leaving the nest too.”

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