Childhood is perceived by many as a carefree time in one’s life, but the bottom line is, children have many more worries than meets the eye. The plethora of anxieties can take over and make everyday life challenging for a child and those in his or life.
In some cases, the anxiety and resulting behavior is a sign of an already existing anxiety disorder, or if left unchecked, becomes a diagnosed anxiety disorder in adulthood. Our duty as adults to children is to focus on prevention, early intervention and healthy coping strategies. A great way to do is through books!
There are many children’s books out there about anxiety and mental health. Reading them with children has threefold benefits: anxiety support, literacy practice and healthy engagement between adults and children. Here are just a few books you can add to your library if you have an anxious child in your life!
1. “Walter and the No-Need-To-Worry Suit” by Rachel Bright
In this lighthearted picture book, the main character, Walter, is a worrier. When Walter learns he has been entered into events in the Woollybottom Sports and Funday, his worries spiral out of control. Fortunately for Walter, his best friend Winnie is there for him. By making it a team effort, Winnie and the Woollybottom animal community come up with a solution to ease Walter’s worrying. Bright’s book is a colorfully illustrated text that helps children take a lighter look at and approach to their worries. Walter’s story is suitable for families with children, ages 3 and older.
2. “When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for People Who Live With Anxiety” by Kari Dunn Buron
Published by the Autism Asperger Publishing Company, Buron’s book presents a similar self-rating for practice children to use. The little boy in the book, whose worries clearly get too big, explains his anxiety using a number scale. At 1, he is OK. At 5, he is angry and losing control. This book invites children to explore their own feelings and provides strategies for self-calming, including drawing pictures of things that upset them and calm them down. Buron’s book is easy to read and engages children, parents and teachers in the journey to ease anxiety. The book is appropriate for families and education professionals with children ages 4 and up.
3. “Don’t Panic, Annika!” by Juliet Clare Bell
If you are an adult who has ever experienced panic attacks, then you know it is one of the most distressing and exhausting things to experience. Now consider a child having panic attacks. The thought alone is distressing. In Bell’s book, the main character is a girl named Annika. Annika’s anxiety is omnipresent in her daily life. She panics regularly, such as when she cannot find her favorite toy or when her coat zipper gets stuck. To help her calm herself in a crisis, Annika’s family teaches her how to self-soothe. When Annika is alone and locked into her house, she uses her calming techniques while she waits to be rescued. In the end, Annika conquers her anxiety and the panic subsides. This entertaining story teaches children simple techniques to ease their own anxiety and panic symptoms. Bell’s book is suitable for families with children ages 3 and older.
4. “Billy Monster’s Daymare” by Alan Durant
One of the most common fears among children is monsters: Monsters under the bed. Monsters hiding in the closet. Monsters lurking in the shadows. The anxiety about monsters can reach a level where some children no longer feel comfortable sleeping in their own bedrooms and seek a safe haven by sleeping in their parents’ bedrooms regularly.
Durant’s book turns the table by presenting the common childhood phobia in reverse. The main character, Billy, is a young monster afraid of children, and just a child may imagine monsters in the closet or behind the curtains, Billy imagines children hiding in these places. Billy ultimately receives comfort and reassurance from his dad that many people and creatures feel the same way. The book contains pictures of monsters but the reassuring part for children is in seeing the monsters are friendly and live regular lives, just like humans do. Durant’s book is appropriate for families with children ages 4 and up.
By using books they can relate to, anxious children have a wellness tool in their resource box reminding and reassuring them it’s OK to feel what they feel. They are also reminded they are loved and supported by the people in their lives and that anxiety can be conquered. Wellness is possible. If you don’t believe me, then in the words of the Reading Rainbow theme song, “Take a look, it’s in a book!” Wishing all the wonderful children out there happy reading!