As a Family Coach, I’m seeing more and more kids presenting with anxious tendencies. While I don’t know why that is, what I do know is that anxiety is so tough for kids and their parents. That’s why I honestly believe that Hey Warrior by Karen Young should be on every parent’s bookshelf.
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Hey Warrior isn’t a thick tricky workbook that parents have to plough through and decipher how to implement. It’s a book you can read with your child that will help you both understand what anxiety is. It’ll also help you with how to talk about it, and how to help one another through it.
When reading Hey Warrior, you’ll meet the amygdala, otherwise known as your child’s personal warrior. Your child can even name their amygdala! Through reading Hey Warrior, they’ll learn that their warrior is actually there to help them – it just sometimes over functions. This will help them to understand that anxiety itself isn’t weird or worrying. Hey Warrior shrugs off the shame that anxiety can sometimes come with, and emphasises that it serves an important protective purpose within us.
The story itself follows a boy and his amygdala, his warrior, as they learn to work together. The illustration by Norvile Davidonyte shows how the warrior can sometimes suffocate the boy when there’s an over-functioning. But by the end, the boy is the boss of the warrior. Davidonyte has chosen colours that are calming to the anxious eye with imagery that gently but courageously illustrates the young boy’s battle with his warrior.
How it helps
Hey Warrior breaks down the biological responses to anxiety in relatable and understandable terms for kids. It talks about why they might start to cry, or get sweaty, or get an upset tummy when they’re anxious.
Not only does the book describe anxiety and it’s physical impact in a way that children can relate to easily, but it empowers them to become the boss of it. Young has included breathing techniques. These focus on slow deep breathing to help children be able to control their anxious thoughts in a helpful way.
She explains, “Another way to be the boss of your brain is to breathe strong, deep breaths. Part of the reason you feel the way you do is because fast shallow breathing has changed the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. Slow strong breathing changes it back.”
As a parent reading Hey Warrior, you’re given language that you can use when communicating with your child about their anxiety and a platform to start that conversation from. You can ask your child questions like, “How do you see yourself in this?” or, “How does your warrior bother you?”
In asking those questions, you’re relating to them in a way that they get. You’re giving them a way to talk to you about what happens for them when they feel anxious or worried.
This makes them feel understood. In feeling understood, your child will feel less alone, and it’ll make a huge difference. The only thing worse than anxiety is feeling alone within it.
At the back of the book, there’s a checklist that your child can tick off the things that they believe about themselves. These truths are always a good place for them to return to after an anxious day, because anxiety can leave us all second guessing. Parents, here’s where you can write in things that you see and believe in your child. We all need a little extra affirmation sometimes.
Who it’s for
Hey Warrior isn’t just for kids who present as typically anxious. Don’t get me wrong – it’s absolutely for them too, but anxiety can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. Maybe your child keeps acting out in ways that you deem naughty, but what they’re actually doing is struggling to connect and looking for ways to be seen. It could be that your child won’t be left in their room alone and doesn’t want to tell you why. Maybe it’s just that you’ve noticed a few extra worries popping up in conversation with them and you’d like to nip it in the bud early. Hey Warrior is here to help.
You can start reading Hey Warrior to your child from any age, although you’ll find the older they get, the more they’ll understand anxiety and how to tackle it. The language is simple, the imagery is soothing, and the message is important. You can open up your book and read one page a night, or you can read the whole thing as a part of a regular rhythm. Regardless of how much you read or what age you read it at, Hey Warrior has a message that we all need to hear,
“Always remember, anxiety is a sign that you’re about to do something really brave. Anxiety and courage always exist together – always – so take your strong breaths, your powerful thoughts, and that brave warrior of yours, and go be amazing.”