Anxiety had already been a concern for many of our kids before the Covid pandemic hit, and as we all know, the current situation isn’t helping. All of us are having to navigate an entirely new way of life right now, and it can be particularly hard on kids. Their routines are gone, they are isolated from schoolmates, and with spring here, there are so many new things to be anxious about. Not that you don’t already know all these things, parents. You’re living it, same as us.
Instead of getting better, it may even e getting harder.
Kids are now facing pressing unknowns about summer camps, family trips and future plans like high school or college. They can’t see grandparents in person and may even be missing out-of-state family a whole lot. Zoom sessions with friends are terrific, but don’t offer that IRL social contact that’s so critical for kids at this developmental stage.
And for those kids who already suffer from social anxiety, we’re worried about how all this staying home will impact them when they finally do have to re-enter the real world outside.
I also know that those kids with parents who are essential workers — or teens who are essential workers themselves — have a whole other layer of fear, anxiety, and completely reasonable concern. I’ve seen it with in own children, as my teen son has kept his job at a grocery store, and every time he encounters people on his shifts who aren’t following CDC guidelines for wearing masks and maintaining social distancing is very stressful. For both him, and for all of us.
So I wanted to find some books for kids about anxiety that would help them process their thoughts and emotions, and remind them that they’re not alone in feeling anxious.
In fact, reminders (you know, from someone other than Mom and Dad) that their feelings are totally normal is really important. And books are so great for that very thing — it helps reflect themselves right back to them, and reminds them that they are not alone. In whatever they are feeling.
So I reached out to friends who’ve been dealing with anxiety in their kids for a while, and these are some of the top recommendations for books that I wanted to share. I truly hope they help.
Note: Of course, if your children really are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to professional help from school counselors, mental health hotlines, or therapists via telemedicine. We’ve used TeenCounseling ourselves for at-home therapy sessions, and it’s a terrific option for helping your older kids navigate these tough times, especially if you’re not quite sure where to start.
Related: Helping teens who are struggling with social distancing, isolation and loss during quarantine: A therapist’s expert tips
Recommended books about anxiety for young children
In Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes, Molly’s first instinct is to run from her fears, but once she learns to face them head-on she realizes she can make them go away. It’s an empowering book for kids to teach them to open up, talk about their fears, and take the first steps toward conquering them.
I love Francesca Sanna’s beautiful book Me and My Fear, because it helps kids understand that fear is actually a good feeling to have. It’s uncomfortable when it gets too big and overwhelming, but it’s actually a helpful instinct too. This book can be a useful step toward teaching your kids not to be afraid of their fear, and to understand that it’s a normal human emotion.
If you feel like you’re at the point where you could use a little more step-by-step help to ward managing your child’s anxiety, What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner is an excellent workbook for younger kids. It will show them how to recognize anxiety before it gets too big to handle, and “talk it down” so that it doesn’t become debilitating.
One thing I’ve noticed when researching books on anxiety for kids: they are often geared toward girls. As the mom of sons too, I think Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety by Steve Herman is a fantastic resource for all kids, but especially boys who’d like to see another boy on the cover.
If you want a book to help your kids do something rather than just talk about their feelings (though both are important!), then Meditation for Kids: 40 Activities to Manage Emotions, Ease Anxieties and Stay Focused by Tejal V. Patel and Vanessa Boer is a resource worth looking into. Sometimes, just some mindful activity is all we need to get over the anxiety hump.
Related: 7 of the best meditation apps for calming anxiety right now
GI Joe told us that “knowing is half the battle” (yes, I’m quoting GI Joe!) and I feel like that’s been true for me when it comes to anxiety management too. If your kid is a pragmatic, science-thinking type, then Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Parents and Children by Laurie E. Zelinger and Jordan Zelinger could be the resource they need to really understand what’s happening in their brain when panic attacks hit.
Related: Sleep anxiety in kids: 5 solutions for big kid sleep issues that really work
Recommended books about anxiety for teens
I’ve read Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now by Jill Weber out loud to my kids, and I really appreciate her mix of helpful charts here. You’ll find a breakdown of the difference between healthy fear and anxiety; activities to help kids recognize their own anxious thoughts; clear, simple explanations for how your brain interprets anxiety, and so much more. It’s a super useful resource for both older boys and older girls struggling with anxiety.
With the Feeling Better: The CBT Workbook for Teens by Rachel Hutt, kids are given the chance to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques at home. If you don’t have access to a therapist, and want science-based activities that will help them work through emotions productively, this book will help. Just note that it’s a workbook, so your teen needs to be willing to participate in some self-reflection to get anything out of the exercises.
Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress by Regine Galanti addresses the stressors our kids have in their regular life — it’s good to remember that school pressure and issues with friendship maintenance still exist now during Covid-19, they just look a little different. Galanti offers helpful explanations about common anxiety triggers, then offers support in the form of quizzes, mindfulness practices, and CBT-based techniques that are easy for kids to try.
If your teen is really mad at their anxiety, like a lot of kids are, then don’t dismiss a book like Unf*ck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs and Triggers with Science by Dr. Faith G. Harper based on the irreverent title. In fact, it may offer the humor, edge, and honesty that your kids (or you) need to get interested in the practical, science-based help she offers for overcoming trauma. This book is for people who are struggling just to get through daily activities, and might be especially helpful if you worry that re-entering the real world is going to do a number job on your kids’ mental health.
Just note, as you might have guessed from the title, there’s lots of… language in this book, as well as in the accompanying workbook. So it’s definitely not for all teens, or all families, but if a lot of F-words don’t bother you, Unf*ck Your Brain may be exactly the anxiety book for your older kids that you’ve been looking for.
Top image: Finn on Unsplash