Maia and the Worry Bug was thought up by a Christchurch psychologist, Julie Burgess-Manning, and teacher Sarina Dickson. This book is part of a programme which assists families in managing anxiety. Children and families affected by the Christchurch earthquakes are the target market (and in fact, junior and middle school children in Christchurch have been provided with a copy). Anxiety is not, however, just related to natural disasters, and as such, this is a really useful family resource. It has been reviewed by other psychologists and is recommended by the Children’s Commissioner, Russel Wills (a pediatrician).
Maia’s family has a worry bug come to stay. It is quite small, and gets to work on Maia’s Mum, getting her to start compulsively checking on the soundness of the house and the wellbeing of the family. The bug feeds on the worry and the worries spread to Maia’s Dad, and then to Maia. The now rather large worry bug enjoys the family spending all their time worrying, and eventually the family feels better just staying at home together and cross-checking all the safety checks that they each make. Nell the neighbour points out that all the checking and staying at home is not making them feel any better and the family addresses the worry bug.
The story is concluded with a family toolkit – good questions to ask each other to check on anxiety levels and to explore how each family member reacts to anxiety. Children are encouraged to draw their own worry bugs and to explore the anxieties that might feed them. There are a list of resource organisations at the end of the book and a link. This website has a tool to measure anxiety, and further suggestions for people and organisations to contact if you need some help managing anxiety.
Having experienced the odd family crisis myself, I really value the idea of resources being available in the home for parents to use with their children during difficult times. I have sought out such resources previously and have a couple of books hidden away in the wardrobe in case of crisis! This though is a book useful to keep close by, as it is quite easy for anxiety to get out of hand. Using the tool at the back of the book I learnt (one) of the reasons why my daughter had trouble going to sleep – she didn’t believe that we would hear the smoke alarms while we were asleep. She had jumbled up some information learnt in her school based fire safety programme! We were able to provide her with the correct information and help make her worry bug a little smaller!
Review by Emma Wong-Ming
Maia and the Worry Bug
by Julie Burgess-Manning, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Kotuku Creative