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When the world feels like a scary place – Book Review

When the world feels like a scary place: Essential conversations for anxious parents and worried kids 

Gewirtz, A. (2020). Workman Publishing Company.

Conversations with children can be challenging, especially when it comes to the big stuff. Bullying, violence, climate change, racism and Covid-19 are examples of subjects tackled in this book by child psychologist Abigail Gerwitz. After reading, parents will have a plethora of tools and strategies to handle the curliest of questions with their child.

This is an excellent book for parents who want guidance on what to say and how to say it when faced with difficult conversations. Children are not immune to stress, anxiety and the negative emotions caused by societal issues. For parents, talking and listening are the fundamental tools in the parenting toolbox. Ultimately, effective communication can foster resilient, confident children in times of stress.

Abigail strongly emphasises the need for parents to ‘coach’ their child through big emotions. Over three chapters, emotions are explored and advice is tailored to infants, children and teens.  Remaining chapters are broken down into subject-specific scenarios, such as natural disasters and technology. Although an American perspective is evident, it doesn’t detract from the core themes and is suitable for New Zealand parents.

With clear explanations and examples, readers are shown how to manage conversations effectively.  The conversation scripts peppered throughout the book are a highlight.  They use likely scenarios to demonstrate word-for-word how a conversation could develop.

Any parent who has been lost for words after a child’s tough question will benefit from reading ‘When the World Feels Like a Scary Place’.

Reviewed by Gina Speedy, School Counsellor at Auckland Normal Intermediate

Rāhina / Monday

Reconnect with yourself

Connecting with yourself is a skill. To start the week, begin by taking a moment to check in with yourself, acknowledge how you’re feeling and how the last few years of turbulence affected you and your connection with others and the world around you. This is a good time to think about the people you have lost contact with who you might want to reach out to, or the special places you haven’t visited in a while, and set some whāinga/goals for the week ahead.

At the end of the week, you can reflect on how you felt at the start and how reconnecting with the people and places that are special to you has lifted you up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with yourself:

Rātū/ Tuesday

Reconnect with a friend or loved one

We know life can get busy, but feeling connected to the people that are important to us can make a big difference to our mental health. Connection brings purpose and belonging to our lives and makes us feel happier and more secure. Today is about reconnecting with the people in our lives – it could be someone special who you have lost touch with or just wish you caught up with more often.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a friend or loved one:

Rāapa / Wednesday

Reconnect with a special place

The places and spaces we spend our time in have a huge impact on how we feel. Most of us have places we can go that calm, inspire or uplift us. Today, make time to go to a place that is special to you and take notice of how you feel when you are there. For some of us, the special place that comes to mind might be out of reach - perhaps it’s overseas, or too far away to get to. Even if we can’t get there right now, there are ways that we can reconnect with the places that lift us up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a special place:

Rāpare / Thursday

Reconnect with your community.

Today is about reconnecting with your hapori whānui/wider community. It’s the perfect time to sign up to be a volunteer or join a local community group, but it could also be as simple as making the effort to reconnect with the people you interact with every day. Today is all about savouring the little hononga/connections that make us human.

A few ideas for reconnecting with your community:

Rāmere / Friday

Reconnect with nature

To round out the week, we’re asking you to reconnect with the beautiful taonga that is te taiao/the natural environment. Studies show exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, it contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. All the more reason to spend at least a small moment today outside - breathing in some fresh air and noticing the world around you.

A few ideas for reconnecting with nature: