Published: 16th March 2022
Howard Cooper is an author and therapist who has spent the last 20 years helping people to become free from anxiety.
As an ex-anxiety sufferer in his teens, he knows first hand how difficult life can be when struggling with mental health. Now having helped over 2500 children and adults, he is keen to find new ways to help wider audiences understand more about anxiety and how to become free of it.
My book ‘The Rustle of Leaves‘ was actually born out of a therapy session I had with an eight-year-old, where I was trying to explain how anxiety worked and how sometimes we can be scared of things that pose no threat. I’m a storyteller at heart, and I began to discover my purpose was to help people understand more about anxiety and change the way they think, but I realised there was only one of me when there could be hundreds and thousands of books. This way I could help spread the message more eloquently.
One of the ways children learn is by modelling grown-ups and for the last three years, for various reasons, there has been more global uncertainty than we’ve ever seen before. Kids pick up on that. If parents aren’t in a good mental space or aren’t dealing with the state of things resillently (totally understandable), I think children notice. Even if they can’t put words on it, they may begin to wonder “what is going on, what is this feeling, why do I not feel as safe as I always have been?”. Being able to talk about it is a good start.
To tackle this, I’ve started going into schools to do book readings with a follow up workshop where we discuss how anxiety works through the body and come up with five strategies to cope with difficult emotions together. Many teachers come up to me following the session informing me they’ve learnt something too! It feels like I’m on a path that has real value and merit.
I’m originally from Leeds so a trip to London was often full of touristy things. I have very fond memories of going to Madame Tussauds. Even seeing a red bus or being on the tube I found interesting! I also liked the Sea Life London Aquarium because I am a big animal lover to this day.
There’s a place hidden on an industrial park in Watford, which is why most people have never heard of it. It’s actually a working bakery which provides bread goods for all over the place, but a few years ago they opened up to the public and gradually it’s become more and more popular. They do incredible breakfasts and poached eggs plus it’s a great atmosphere, so we often go there as a treat with the kids. The more people who know about it, the less chance I have of parking so this is a top secret exclusively for KidRated readers!
The cafe is called Flourish (don’t pass it on). Another top tip is if you get a window at the back, you can watch the workers mixing the dough and baking the cookies which adds to the thrill of it all.
I have very fond memories of going to St Anne’s-on-the-Sea over the summer holidays with my parents. It’s quaint and ye olde worldy. After 6 o’clock, you don’t see another soul outside so it’s really peaceful.
In the same vein, a little bit closer to London, we sometimes will go to Frinton-on-sea. There’s this amazing beach where the kids go swimming. A big greenery is revealed when the tide goes out, where we play board games, rounders and football – it’s idyllic. It feels like you’ve stepped into the 60s. I don’t wear a one-piece swimsuit though, to match the time I feel like I’m having.
The perfect day would probably be breakfast at Flourish and then we’d hop in the car and head to Colchester Zoo. The kids love it, there is lots to do there and it’s not too expensive. To be honest, if I’m not working and I get to spend time with my family, I’m happy wherever we are.
I’m attracted to places off the beaten track. There’s a free place called The National History Museum in Tring, which holds the largest taxidermy collection. It sounds a bit morbid I know but you can take the kids and see pretty much every animal there is. It’s truly fascinating…you can literally be eyeball to eyeball with a white tiger.
We are a big fan of Willows Activity Farm in Hertfordshire. You can feed the horses, say hello to the cows plus there are rides, soft play and various events like sheep sheering demonstrating in Summer! We are members there so we can go whenever we like. It’s so great to find ways to get the kids outdoors and playing.
We do Christmas at Kew as a family every year. It was a shame because last year we couldn’t go because of covid and the kids were devastated. It’s not just the lights it’s the atmosphere… staying up late, toasting giant marshmellows, it’s a little bit like a step into a dream. Quite frankly, seeing their little faces light up is good enough for me.
Where’s the option for me!? I’ve been unicycling since I was sixteen and it’s very good for fitness. I often get long stares or people shouting “you’re missing a wheel mate!”.
I sarcastically reply “Oh, I hadn’t noticed…”
This year, I will be doing a 60k unicycle ride for a children’s charity. For me, the less wheels, the better.
The best toyshop we had in Leeds was ToysRUs, which was like a warehouse, but I was told the world’s biggest and greatest toy shop was Hamley’s. I remember finally visiting and the staff were demonstrating all the latest gadgets. I could hardly contain my excitement.