It was only as an adult that I realised how much I had struggled with mental health issues from a very young age, something that was overlooked for many years until eventually I reached out to ask for the help I needed. Unfortunately, those early traumatic experiences have meant that my anxiety and depression have followed me into adulthood and have had a huge impact on my life.
It’s for this reason that I am extremely conscious of the impact stress or trauma of any kind could have on my children as they grow up. Children are still learning and often aren’t emotionally or mentally equipped to deal with these issues, often leaving them unable to cope. It’s been proven that prolonged stress in young children can have a detrimental effect to their development with a significant impact on physical and mental health, something I’m keen for my kids to avoid facing.
Mental health problems are no longer in the minority for children and statistics show that 1 in 10 children living in the UK suffer from issues including stress, depression and anxiety [Office Of National Statistics] and that three-quarters of mental illnesses start in childhood [Annual Report Of The Chief Medical Officer]. It’s clear looking at these figures that the 30% of the UK Health Research budget that is currently spent on young people needs to be increased [The Guardian], but what can we as parents do to help our children at home?
Broaching the subject of mental health issues with children may be a daunting experience, leaving you unable to find the ‘right’ way to start the conversation, especially when it comes to younger kids. Recently I was contacted about a book, The Stress Goblin’s Hat, that has been written expressly for the purpose of helping children identify and cope with stress. Aimed at children 3-7 years it sounded perfect for me to share with Leo who is 5 and a half (don’t forget the all-important half!) I haven’t seen any similar books on the market that tackle this issue, so was intrigued to read and share it with him.
The Stress Goblin’s Hat has been co-written by sibling’s Dr Rubina Mian and Omar Mian, both of whom have witnessed first-hand the impact that stress can have on young lives. Dr Rubina Mian is a research scientist who has been studying the effects of stress for over 25 years, knowledge which she has lovingly poured into this beautiful picture book. Once written the book was edited by Professor Panos Votanis who is the world expert on childhood trauma, who has researched stress-related factors in children from pre-school age to adolescence. Using their wealth of knowledge, they created this book to provide children with a gentle introduction to stress to help them identify and overcome issues.
So, what did we think? Firstly, I have to say it’s evident that a lot of time has been spent working on the book and its contents to ensure its perfect for its intended purpose. The book tells the story of the Stress Goblin who loses his hat to a sudden gust of wind one day. The mischievous hat likes to find a head to land on and make its owner stressed, which he continues to do so whilst evading capture by the Stress Goblin. Throughout the story a variety of stress triggers are discussed using simple, kid-friendly language as well as offering suggestions to use as coping mechanisms should things get too much. It also offers a strong message about opening up and talking to the right people about how you are feeling.
Despite dealing with a pretty heavy topic the book has a lively pace which is filled with humour as the stress hat wreaks havoc along the way. The book is a beautiful quality hardback which is filled with bright colourful illustrations that perfectly compliment the story and convey the thoughts and feeling of the characters accurately.
As a parent I thought this book was perfectly pitched at its target age group and is a great fun way to open the lines of communication with you child about their thoughts, feelings and concerns. The back of the book has several pages for parents providing information about stress in children as well as discussion pointers and signs to look out for. Leo loved the story, especially the humorous parts and it will certainly be a book we continue to read together as he gets old to help reinforce opening up and talking about his emotions so that we can work together to identify issues and provide coping strategies.
I would highly recommend this book to any parent and feel it would be an extremely useful resource for use within the school setting to help educate and open the lines of communication there too.
The Stress Goblin’s Hat is available to purchase from Amazon* and all good bookshops