As a young girl in the 70’s anxiety was a word I was not familiar with. A shy and backward child I was. I always needed my big sister around me, especially at school. Even now at 50 years of age I can see myself and hear myself crying in primary school for my big sister. I recall pretending to be sick to miss a day of school. In hindsight, I know I suffered dreadfully with what is not termed, ‘Childhood anxiety’. Many people would be unaware that I suffered such, as I was a very boisterous, outgoing, fun-loving kid too. And so I immediately recognise the signs of anxiety in children today. I’m not a therapist, I’m not a counsellor, and I’m no expert in any way. I’m just a creative writing facilitator who enjoys encouraging children to believe in themselves and to use words to empower themselves.
Having started The WRITE STUFF Kids Club 5 years ago, this was all about encouraging children to use their imagination and have fun with words. Encouraging them to write, draw and tell stories. And this the children have been doing in abundance. There’s no pressure, no competition and no structure to our workshops, except that children are allowed to engage freely in using that all important imagination and be creative.
However what has been coming back from parents and indeed teachers, is the surge in confidence in the children who are attending. Children who are shy, who are quite, and more recently children who suffer with anxiety and other fears, are finding solace and contentment in creative writing. One such child is Sophie Rae.
I first met Sophie Rae in the early Spring of 2019. A very quite and nervous little girl she came along one Thursday evening to our club. Her Mum had to stay with her for the first few weeks. Sophie Rae didn’t utter a word those first few weeks. Every now and again I would see a tear rolling down her cheek and I would ensure to praise her writing and drawing. I tried always to focus on her work. Every work is praised – be in one line or ten pages – every work is the individuals. Sophie Raes was no different. However, hers was beginning to show a little difference as the weeks went by.
Amidst her anxiety Sophie Rae was discovering a love of writing and it showed in her work. Her stories were fun and they were entertaining, and they were colourful. It was about her fourth week when Sophie Rae asked me to spell a word. That same week, her Mother was waiting out in the reception area, and not in the room with us for the first time. I eagerly spelled out the word and inside my heart was dancing. This little girl spoke to me. And this was just the beginning. As the weeks went by, Sophie Rae began talking to me. Eventually even reading her stories out to the group, and then reading them for recording to be put on the clubs social media pages.
In June of this year, Sophie Rae met Niall Breslin at a local music festival. She told him about her plans to write a book. Those plans are now very much underway. Sophie Rae is telling her story about living with and dealing with childhood anxiety and her leading character is a unicorn – her favourite.
Sophie Rae lives with anxiety every day. She comes to our workshops each week and some weeks she is hesitant. But she talks it through now with myself and she immerses herself in writing and drawing stories. She has found a whole new belief in herself and she has soared in her confidence and self-esteem. Anxiety still takes over from time to time, but she uses her exploration of words to help her overcome it.
Writing and drawing and finding a way to have fun with such is proving a very powerful tool within our club. No one is judged and no one is put under pressure. But the children themselves are finding a way of not only exploring their imagination, but finding a way to find themselves. A way to believe in themselves. A way to release inner anxieties within themselves.
I myself have recently suffered a bereavement in the loss of my much loved Dad. I wrote my way through his illness by noting my experience with him daily. Then as he was dying, I penned a number of poems. I continue blogging and posting little snippets of words about him. This use of words is helping me deal with my anxiety of losing a very large part of me.
Words really are powerful if we allow ourselves to use them in the right way. With children it’s all about having fun with the words. Allowing for self-expression in those very words. Yes, words are a very powerful tool to use.