Books can be a wonderful tool for helping kids overcome anxiety and worry
Almost all children experience worry at some point. So much of childhood involves having very little choice about what happens in your life. To a child, the world can feel complex and scary. Some children respond to this situation with excessive worry. Thinking and ruminating about what could go wrong can feel like a way to protect yourself, but it really just makes you feel worse. As a parent, it can be tough to figure out how to help your child with his or her worry. You don’t want to dismiss their feelings, and at the same time you don’t want to feed their anxiety and make them feel even more worried.
I’ve read many children’s books about worry and anxiety, and this seems like a topic area where many authors go awry. Too many of the children’s books out there just offer platitudes, simplistic solutions, or miss the boat entirely and end up making anxious kids feel even more worried by just offering lists of more things to worry about.
Helpful Books for Kids with Anxiety or Worry
The following books offer some decent tools to start the conversation with a child in your life who struggles with too much worry, and avoid the pitfalls of many children’s books about worry.
This book can work for a wide age range, simple enough language for a 1st grader, but complex enough for a 12 year old to benefit from as well. Unlike so many other books about children’s worry, Dawn Huebner (a clinical psychologist who has written several great books for kids about managing difficult emotions) offers concrete steps to take to manage excessive worry and uses metaphors to help kids understand how worry works, like how when you feed your worries you help them to grow just like watering a plant. This is a good option for parents of worriers; if I were only going to get one book I would start with this one.
2. Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids. Ages 5-11. Powerful, award-winning solution for anxiety, fear, worry, and stress in children. Elementary School Edition (Cards with Case)
Even though it isn’t a book, I had to add this anxiety tool kit to the list. This is an activity kit that teaches concrete tools for managing worry and anxiety in children. There is also a version for Middle and Highschoolers with age appropriate examples of ways to reduce anxiety and manage worry. What I like about this tool kit is how deceptively simple it is, kids learn great tools to cope with worry and quite a bit of knowledge is actually shared in what feels almost like a game.
This book for younger readers (ages 3-9) offers a helpful metaphor for worry, and teaches concrete strategies to help kids learn to take off their “worry glasses” and manage their anxiety. I like how Donalisa Helsley shows kids how worry is the tough side of having an active imagination. She also teaches that learning more about the things that cause you to worry can actually be a helpful way to put things in perspective. Based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) the concrete strategies in this book can be a helpful start for your little worrier.
Another good choice for younger kids (4-8 year olds), this book by Andi Green teaches a simple concept in a whimsical story format. Kids learn that the more they focus on their worries, the more their “worry bug” grows. Parents can use this helpful metaphor to remind kids to try not to feed their worry bug, and focus on other things instead. Though only major coping skill taught in this book is distraction (learning to focus on something else) I still find the message and concept helpful for younger kids.
This is a good choice for older kids (5th grade and above) who struggle with fear or worry, or as a resource for parents of worriers of all ages. The concepts are well explained and useful coping skills are taught (charmingly called “worry erasers” and “fear chasers”) that can help kids learn to manage these difficult experiences. There are two sections to the book. Part One is about everyday worry and offers 10 skills to combat stress, fear, and worry. Part Two has kid-friendly explanations of conditions like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Panic Disorder. I like how the author James J. Crist goes beyond listing out symptoms and offering platitudes. The book teaches about how the body and the brain work together in anxiety, and helps kids learn what to do about it.
Thanks for supporting our mission to help parents and teachers find useful tools for raising healthy children. I hope this list helped you on your search for good books to help young worriers. If you know of other great books for young worriers please share in the comments. I am always looking for new additions. When you follow the links in this post to purchase one of these books we get a small fee from Amazon which goes to help support The Catalyst Center’s scholarship program which provides low cost therapy services to those in need.