Child anxiety is no joke and this author can help

Author and teacher Liam Kelly speaks to online editor Colin Armstrong about writing his first book, Worried William, and how he hopes it can inspire children and parents to open up about their emotions

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Tell us what Worried William is all about…

The book is based upon a nine-year-old boy called Worried William. It deals with a week in his life and all the things that worry him. The first book talks a lot about the impact his worries have on others like his mother, sister and friends. I loved writing it and it’s got fantastic illustrations from local artist  Gemma Gallagher as well.

Is this a stand-alone book?

Worried William is the first of 21 books in the series, with three for every school year – the last book will be called Wonderful William, where he manages to deal with his anxieties. This is important because I want the readers to know that there is positivity at the end and that William will be able to deal with his worries and anxieties in a constructive way.

Your books deal with some complicated issues in an accessible way. Was this
your goal?

I worried myself as a child growing up in Moneyglass, Northern Ireland and that’s really where some of the ideas have come from. Sometimes when children worry they struggle to deal with it, and these are the times when people think a child is hard work but deep down that child is struggling. There are little signs we need to look out for with children. Worrying is a natural thing, everyone will worry. But some people manage to deal with their worries better than others. That’s really what the series is about.

Your book has resonated with a lot of people and there seems to be a community growing around the series as well…

We have a Worried William Facebook page where we share poetry. It started as a poetry month where parents and children were sending in poems. In the first month I got over 300 poems. I thought I might get a handful, but the response was incredible. We’re now turning these poems into a book, and the money that’s collected from the sales is going towards promoting children’s mental [health] awareness. I’m putting all that money into children’s charities and I’m currently setting up the Worried William Project, which is a charity that will share community-based activities. Al Diyafah International School [where I teach] has been a huge support and has given me great encouragement.

What is the main thing you want to highlight with the Worried William community?

Children are good at hiding their emotions and their worries. We want children to be more comfortable with talking and parents to be more aware about how their children are doing. Children’s mental health is so important. They’re little people, they have thoughts and feelings and we need to nurture them. If children are worrying at
a young age and we don’t help them deal with it at this stage, it’s only going to get worse throughout their life.

For more information, visit: facebook.com/worriedwilliam

WORDS Colin Armstrong

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