Sam’s Big Secret: Coping with Fear

Many children are suffering from anxiety and fears these days, especially in times of COVID and post-pandemic life. Given our current context, having the resources to guide parents and children navigate these challenges becomes so important. Sam’s Big Secret is an ideal therapeutic resource to help children cope with fear and phobias. It teaches children tools to manage fear that is within their control rather than letting fear control them. For this book, I teamed up again with the very talented Elaheh Bos to write this therapeutic resource which is a not only a children’s story about fear but also explains what fear is and teaches seven different coping tools on how to conquer fear. This collaborative effort is a book I am very proud of as I hope it will help many children (and adults, too) feel empowered to overcome their fear!

Sam's Big Secret: Coping With Fear

Sam’s Big Secret Story Synopsis

Sam's Big Secret book. Thinking
Sam Thinking

Let me tell you a little about Sam’s Big Secret. It is a story about Sam, a brave turtle who has a BIG SECRET. He is afraid and even terrified of water. Whenever Sam approaches a pond or river, his heart pounds quickly, he has trouble breathing, he feels dizzy, and his whole body shakes. Sam thinks that he will faint and that something terrible is going to happen.

Sam running scared. Sam's Big Secret book

He tries to calm himself down by hiding in his shell so that he does not have to face the outside world. And as soon as he feels better, he comes out of his shell and tries to get away as fast as he can.

He avoids the water altogether and makes excuses to his friends about why he can’t join them and swim. The problem is that the more he avoids the water, the bigger his fear grows and the worse he feels. Indeed, his thoughts tell him he can’t and shouldn’t go in the water and then he reassures himself that he simply won’t go in. He starts to realize how sad and lonely he feels. Sam has let FEAR take control of his life.

Ultimately, Sam decided he needs to make changes and overcome his fear. He is determined to conquer his fear of water.

Through his journey, Sam uses different strategies that allow him to gradually face and overcome his fear. He gains confidence by changing what he says to himself, by talking back to his fear, by taking calming breaths and by slowly exposing himself to water. He relies on himself and takes comfort in the support system he has around him. Sam rediscovers just how brave he really is.

Sam entering water slowly. Sam's Big Secret book

Who This Book Is For:

This book is recommended as a resource for children ages 4 and up. I think that adults will also enjoy reading this book and will relate as much as children to Sam.

How This Book Can Help:

This resource is much more than simply a children’s story. It is a therapeutic tool that incorporates cognitive-behavioural techniques proven to be effective in coping with fears and phobias. And, the book offers parents and caregivers guidance in coaching children through this difficult emotion. Moreover, if your child is in treatment for anxiety, this book can compliment the therapy being done by your mental health professional.

My suggestion is to read the story with your child and talk together about how Sam’s fear affected him in many different ways including his body reactions, his thoughts, his feelings, and his behaviour.

How does you body feel when you are afraid

These ideas are incorporated in the story and are explained in a separate section after the story (called “What is Fear?”) with place for your child to write about how fear affects them. For example, your child is shown how fear and anxiety can affect the body. Once your child has a better understanding of fear, you can review and discuss the different strategies Sam used to face and conquer his fear.

Sam's Big Secret book. Tools for conquering fear

The seven strategies are illustrated in the story and are explained in detail in the tools section at the end.

In order to help your child benefit the most from these tools, it is recommended that you PRACTICE each strategy together with your child.

Sam's Big Secret book. Face your fear one step at a time

You can also “measure” the level of the fear on the feeling thermometer included in the book both before and after trying a strategy so that you will be able to see the progress. Fighting one’s fear is no easy task.

My hope is that you will celebrate all successes with your child, no matter how small or big.

As book bonuses, you can download free resources called “Tips for Helping Your Child Cope with Fears” and the “Facing Fears Form” from my website as well as free printable pages to help you conquer your fears from www.plantlovegrow.com/sam.

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, therapist, school counsellor, or librarian and you are interested in learning more about this new therapeutic resource for children aged 4 and up, please click here. This book is also available in French and in Spanish.

Sam’s Big SecretLe grand Secret de SamEl gran secreto de Sam
Sam's Big Secret: Coping With FearLe grand Secret de Sam: Surmonter la peurEl gran secreto de Sam: Haciéndole frente al miedo (Spanish Edition)
Sam’s Big Secret in English, French and Spanish

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Elaheh Bos for her creativity, helpful suggestions, and for bringing Sam to life!

I also want to give a very special thanks to my AMAZING husband, Gaby, for his continuous encouragement, love, and support!

I am really excited to know what you think of this resource for children. I welcome your feedback, questions, and comments.

If you like Sam’s Big Secret, you may also like When Monkey Lost his Smile to help support children cope with sadness and loss and My Brain Team which helps children manage big emotions and offers an introduction to mindfulness.

Best wishes,
Dr. Stephanie

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