As one who has battled anxiety and depression and is the mother of two girls, Christian communicator and author Caris Snider is passionate about teaching children and teenagers about anxiety and how to cope with it in healthy ways.
Snider is author of “Anxiety Elephants: A 31-Day Devotional to Help Stomp Out Your Anxiety,” a book for adults. In a recent “Amplify” podcast, Snider shared with host Maggie Evans how God led her to write devotional books for younger people dealing with anxiety.
“[After writing ‘Anxiety Elephants’] I had begun talking in schools and talking to kids about anxiety and sharing my story: how those anxiety symptoms and what it felt like showed up as early as first grade,” Snider recalled. “A third grade boy raised his hand and [asked], in all seriousness and vulnerability, ‘How do I deal with social anxiety?’
“I remember talking to my own daughters, and they said to me, ‘Mom, can you write a book, like the adult one you wrote, with words kids can understand?’”
Hope and help
“Anxiety Elephants” offers hope and tools for overcoming anxiety. Through Scripture, real-life stories and advice on handling triggers, the book reminds readers they are not alone on their mental health journey. God is with them in the battle against fear and despair.
As God began to work in Snider’s heart, she said she felt Him asking, “Why are we waiting until children are adults to teach them?” and leading her to equip them with tools for dealing with anxiety they could carry into adulthood.
Resource for tweens
Snider’s soon-to-be-released, “Anxiety Elephants for Tween Girls” and “Anxiety Elephants for Tween Boys” help children understand anxiety and depression by infusing mental health education with Bible truths and providing tools for coping with their feelings.
The books are not meant to give medical advice, Snider cautioned, but each outlines the importance of seeking medical advice for mental health conditions. They are a proactive tool, she explained, designed to help children know how to deal with anxious thoughts.
According to Daniel Pine with the National Institute for Mental Health, 1 in 5 children will experience some kind of anxiety.
The pandemic has contributed to the problem, Snider added, disrupting routines and activities. For children who experience troubles at home, it has removed the haven they found at church or school.
Snider, who suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy, experienced childhood bullying because of her condition. The stress the bullying brought on caused her to suffer bouts of anxiety that eventually escalated to debilitating depression.
As an adult, doctors explained to Snider how the brain’s chemistry impacts the body’s response to stressors and the need to seek necessary medical treatment to restore mental health. Looking back, she believes understanding the complexities of mental health as a child would have helped equip her to cope better with anxiety and depression.
“I wish I would have known that I didn’t have to hide, that I didn’t have to push through [and] try to do it all on my own and that I was loved and accepted,” Snider reflected. “I didn’t have to hide and overly be a perfectionist so no one would make fun of me ever again.”
Some teens feel anxiety because of pressure to perform in academics or in sports, Snider noted. Many withdraw or hesitate to take risks out of fear of failure. Some also develop physical symptoms like migraines, stomachaches, insomnia or increased heart rate.
Parents should be careful not to silence their child’s voice by always reassuring him or her there is no pressure to perform or everything is “OK,” Snider said. Children may feel inward pressure to achieve, and parents can help by offering them a safe outlet to express those feelings.
The books for tweens released March 1 and are available now. Visit Snider’s website at carissnider.com for more information.
To hear more from Snider and others on coping with anxiety issues, check out the TAB “Amplify” podcast at thealabamabaptist.org/podcasts.
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