by Aprel Phelps-Downey
When your child opens a book, she’s opening the door to a world of imagination. Once inside, she can fight dragons with a fiery sword or be a princess living in a castle made of candy. She can take a journey to another place in time, one where maybe there are no such things as anxiety or nervousness.
Books create a world of limitless possibilities for children. More importantly, they can see themselves in the characters they read about. Learn about how reading, in general, can help reduce anxiety, followed by a list of the six best books on the market for kids with anxiety.
How Reading Helps Ease Anxiety
Your child can’t always express how their anxiety makes them feel. Opening the pages of a book helps them gain a better understanding of what they’re feeling inside. They can see a kid who’s anxious about going to school and feel empathy for that character. As they turn the pages of that book, they see how the character overcomes the same obstacles they face every day. By the time they finish the book, they feel a sense of empowerment and a little less lonely than they did before.
Reading also gives you an opportunity to practice mindfulness with your child. As you sit down to read with your kid, you both become immersed in the story. The outside world disappears as your child focuses on the story taking shape on those pages. Developing the ability to focus on the present moment gives children a way to manage anxious feelings as they arise. They gain the ability to take a deep breath, slow down for a moment and regroup before moving forward.
In those moments when life becomes difficult, reading gives your child an outlet for those anxious feelings. Grabbing a book off the bookshelf, curling up with a favorite stuffed animal and getting lost in a book can reduce stress and anxiety. As kids read, their bodies begin to relax and they soon forget about whatever situation may be troubling them at the moment.
Incorporating a bedtime story into your kid’s bedtime routine each day also helps them unwind from a difficult day and find a restful night of sleep.
1. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years old
Wemberly Mouse worries about everything you can possibly imagine. In this book, her biggest worry is facing the first day of school. As your child turns the pages, they will have empathy for Wemberly as they remember how it feels to be fearful of something. Wemberly shows kids how to bravely face that fear and learn to love something that once seemed scary. Click here for more information.
2. Noni is Nervous by Heather Hartt-Sussman
Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years old
Noni is nervous about everything and anything that she comes across in her world. One of the biggest things that makes her nervous is school. Your child will relate to this story as school is likely one of their biggest sources of fear and anxiety as well. Noni shows kids how to face a new situation and learn to have fun in the process. Click here for more information.
3. Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
Recommended Age: 6 to 10 years old
Children naturally have an empathic connection with animals. Your child will see that play out in the pages of this book. When everyone in her home is scared of a big dog, the youngest child in the family, Small, uses her courage to shrink that dog down to normal size. This story teaches your child to recognize that their anxious feelings aren’t always as big as they may seem. Click here for more information.
4. Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla
Recommended Age: 8 to 12 years old
Stanley is a sixth grader trying to navigate middle school life without letting his anxiety get the best of him. Throughout the book, he struggles to make new friends or join a new club that interests him because of those anxious feelings. Your child will relate to him immediately and celebrate as he learns to overcome these feelings, providing invaluable tools that can help in your child’s life as well. Click here for more information.
5. Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher
Recommended Age: 9 to 13 years old
Joseph is afraid of nearly everything, including hard boiled eggs and gargoyles. These fears keep him on the sidelines for most of his childhood until a seventh-grade teacher convinces him to join the school track team. There he makes a new friend who changes everything for the better. Your child will learn how to trust in the power of friendship and how that friendship can help them face new adventures in life without letting anxiety take control. Click here for more information.
6. My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael A. Tompkins and Katherine Martinez
Recommended Age: 13 to 18 years old
Navigating the teen years can be a difficult task for your teenager. She will find this book to be a useful tool in her journey. It contains strategies that will help her manage anxious feelings, find relaxation and learn the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. As she moves through the book the strategies become more complex. That keeps in line with her ever-changing journey as a teenager.
Giving your child a book collection that features characters they can relate to help promote a sense of empowerment. In the pages of those books, kids can find the courage to manage their anxious feelings with the help of new friends that take center stage of the stories they love.
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References: 1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-vickroy-picture-books-anxiety-st-0409-20180402-story.html2. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/mindfulness-for-children3. https://readingpartners.org/blog/four-compelling-reasons-shut-off-screen-open-good-book/4. https://www.weareteachers.com/books-for-kids-with-anxiety/