Anxiety and worry can creep up on your kids when you least suspect it. Luckily there’s a solid stable of books that parents can turn to as they help their little ones better cope.
And books can be especially useful for kids when talking about conditions like anxiety, said Natasha Daniels, child therapist and author of How To Parent Your Anxious Toddler and Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide.
“I do think kids learn through stories so either if a child has a hard time talking about it or if we want to normalize it, it’s super helpful to say, ‘Look, it’s in this book,’” she told HuffPost. “When we distance it and it’s not about the child, it’s just about this character in this book.”
Casey Strenski, a registered associate marriage and family therapist, is the clinical program director of Los Angeles’ Mindful Heart Kids, which offers therapeutic programs for children. She echoed Daniels’ idea and described children’s books as “a really good tool” to help kids learn about their feelings, especially when they can turn to the visuals for added context.
HuffPost put together a list of helpful titles, a mix of recommendations from therapists, counselors, psychologists and other mental health experts as well as some other notable books of the past few years.
Some are fictionalized accounts that highlight common worrisome scenarios like the first day of school, while others are workbooks that offer coping strategies for kids with anxiety. Check them out below.
"What to Do When You Worry Too Much"
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
by clinical psychologist Dawn Huebner, Ph.D., is a popular pick among mental health experts. Daniels and Rachel Thomasian, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Playa Vista Counseling
in California, both recommended this title, which offers actionable suggestions for kids to combat their worries. (Buy here)
by Kevin Henkes tells the tale of a mouse who worries, most notably about the first day of school. Muniya Khanna, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and founder and director of the OCD and Anxiety Institute
in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, included this title on a list of suggested kids' books from Coping Cat Parents
, a site she manages that offers mental health resources for parents. (Buy here
"My Anxious Mind"
My Anxious Mind: A Teen's Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic
also made the Coping Cat Parents list. Michael A. Tompkins, Ph.D., and Katherine Martinez, Psy.D., both licensed psychologists, wrote it to help older readers facing anxiety. (Buy here
"Stuff That Sucks"
In Stuff That Sucks: A Teen's Guide to Accepting What You Can't Change and Committing to What You Can
, clinical psychologist Ben Sedley helps teens sort through their emotions. Lisa W. Coyne, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the founder and director of the New England Center for OCD and Anxiety
, recommended it as she uses it with her patients. (Buy here
"The Worry Workbook for Kids"
Coyne also recommended this title from Khanna and licensed psychologist Deborah Roth Ledley, Ph.D. Stepping away from the traditional children's picture book, this workbook includes activities for kids to help build their confidence. (Buy here
"Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety"
Steve Herman shares valuable social and emotional skills for children through his series about a kid and a pet dragon. In this book, recommended by Thomasian, the duo tackles anxiety. (Buy here
captures the life of a child who worries his mother won't love him if he makes mistakes — and the reassurance he receives. Strenski noted it is a short book with a "sweet message of a parent's love" for kids worried about disappointing their families. (Buy here
is another Dawn Huebner title, but this one is more of a chapter book. Daniels recommended it for kids ages 9 to 13. (Buy here
"Coping Skills for Kids Workbook"
Coping Skills for Kids Workbook
comes from licensed mental health counselor Janine Halloran, who was featured on Daniels' Anxious Toddlers site
. The workbook offers skills for kids to better prepare them to manage their emotions. (Buy here
"Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now"
For her young adult novel Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
, author Dana L. Davis used her own experience
with an anxiety disorder as inspiration. The book, which centers on a character with anxiety and OCD, made Barnes and Nobles' list of YA titles
that "get it right" when it comes to anxiety. (Buy here
"Wilma Jean the Worry Machine"
Former school counselor and teacher Julia Cook shares her character Wilma Jean, a known "worry machine," with her readers to offer strategies on how to cope with anxiety. It's a recommendation from Tammy Lewis Wilborn, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of counseling at the University of New Orleans and chief clinical officer of Wilborn Clinical Services
. (Buy here
"Is a Worry Worrying You?"
Is a Worry Worrying You?
is another rec from Wilborn. The story confronts kids' worries by giving examples of scenarios that might cause worry and then offering solutions to them. (Buy here
made Book Riot's list of picture books
that help kids who worry and earned recognition from the School Library Journal
as a title that teaches kids about anxiety and resilience. It centers on Pilar, who becomes nervous about her ballet auditions. (Buy here
Australia-based author and psychologist Karen Young founded her organization Hey Sigmund
to "bring psychology into the mainstream." Hey Warrior
, a recommendation from Daniels, informs young readers about the feelings and symptoms that come with anxiety. (Buy here
"Up and Down the Worry Hill"
Up and Down the Worry Hill: A Children's Book About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Its Treatment
is another title on the Coping Cat Parents site. It educates kids about OCD while also being helpful for kids facing various worries. (Buy here
"The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes"
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
, a suggestion from Daniels, is for kids who struggle with perfectionism and worry about messing up. (Buy here
"Listening With My Heart"
Listening With My Heart
, recipient of the Mom's Choice Awards'
gold "Honoring Excellence" seal of approval, attempts to combat kids' worries and negative self-talk by promoting kindness — not just to others but to yourself. Author Gabi Garcia also has books on the importance of listening to your body and on affirmations for mindfulness. (Buy here