Six Helpful Books for Children Suffering With Anxiety
As a children’s librarian, I love helping children and parents find the right book. Don’t like to read? Bring it. I will find you a book that will have you laughing out loud or so engrossed that you can’t put the book down. Need a book for a school project? I will help you find that book that is not only informative, but also interesting.
But I alway find myself catching my breath when parents coming in looking for material to help their child with anxiety. And, it’s an increasingly common request. Whether it is a high school student or a kindergartener, my heart aches every time because I want to wave a magic wand and make it all better immediately. I want to find that perfect book that will change everything instantly, creating happy, confident, and relaxed children. But as much as I believe in the power of books to make a positive difference, I know as a parent and fellow anxiety-sufferer that a book is not the easy, quick-fix, solution and doesn’t replace a good therapist.
These books can help explain and normalize what a child is going through.
However, books can be helpful and many of the ones I recommend are written by professionals and I’m happy that they exist and that they can help explain and normalize what a child is going through. These books remind us that we are not alone, and with the right tools and support system, we can learn to be more comfortable and handle the challenges in front of us.
Here are some books and other resources for children of all ages that I recommend:
1. Jack’s Worry
Jack’s Worry is about a boy who has anxiety over performing in his school’s concert. Even though the subject matter is based on a specific event/task, it can be relatable to other tasks. However, it is best for anxiety over specific tasks, opposed to generalized anxiety. The pros are that it describes the anxious-feeling well and the language is very simple for young children to understand. The con is that it is specific to a narrow type of anxiety. I don’t think it would work as well for first-day-of-school anxiety. (By Sam Zuppardi)
2. Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine is about Wilma Jean who worries over everything. From schoolwork to being teased to not having anyone to play with at recess and parties. The end result is Wilma Jean’s teacher helping her manage most of her worries by implementing practical steps to reduce her anxieties, such as more time on tests, helping with organized games at recess so everyone is included, and ways to be more prepared so she feels confident and can handle potential situations in advance. The last page of the book has tips for parents. (by Julia Cook)
3. A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers
A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers is a general book for children that covers a wide range of potential anxieties. It focuses on breathing and visualization to calm down, as well as the importance of communicating with parents and other trusting adults. The back of the book has tips and tools for parents and caregivers. (by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen)
4. What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
What to Do When You Worry Too Much is a longer book, but it is so much more. It is a workbook with interactive guided exercises to help children (aged 6 to 12) reduce their worries and arm them with tools to manage and overcome their anxiety. It helps break down, in language children can easily understand, how normal anxiety can be and why it happens. Its empathetic voice also acknowledges that it is difficult to move past the worries, which helps establish trust for children to work on the exercises. This book is meant for children to do in conjunction with a parent. (by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.)
5. Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)
I am a big fan of meditation. I know the benefits and have experienced them firsthand. That being said, I have also tried to get my children to meditate, especially my anxiety-prone, ADHD child who was going through a stage of letting anger and frustrations get the best of him. That did not go so well and I wish I had this book, Sitting Still Like a Frog, at the time. Despite the cover saying it is written for kids (and their parents), it really is written for the parents and features exercises that they should read with their children. The exercises included are mostly a precursor to what we consider to be traditionally meditation, but that also makes it age-appropriate. They help children to become mindful in small, short doses. It comes with a CD for guided meditations and exercises and is, without a doubt, the best part of this book. The narrator has a soothing voice that can help children relax, even if they have trouble focusing on the words due to a limited attention span. I recommend this for children aged 5 to 10. (by Eline Snel)
6. My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic
If you find the book cover of My Anxious Mind a little creepy (as I did) rest-assured that this book is much calmer and upbeat inside. It speaks to teens without coming off condescending or trying too hard. It identifies with teens’ situations and concerns, addresses them, and includes tools and techniques to help them manage their anxiety. This is a resource that many psychologists, school counselors, and therapists use when working with teens. (by Michael A. Tompkins, PhD, and Katherine A. Martinez, PsyD)
Looking for additional recommendations? Check out the children’s books listed with the American Psychological Association. Their books can be sorted by topic and many very specific anxieties are addressed with its own books (going to the doctor, nightmares, separation anxiety, anxiety-prone bad habits, toilet anxiety, and more).
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Photo source: Unsplash/ Annie Spratt (top image) & Aaron Burden (bottom image)