The pandemic was a particularly anxiety-inducing time for our children. They had to wrap their heads around situations that even us adults struggled to come to terms with, so it's hardly surprising that they have felt more anxious or worried than normal.
They were unable to go to school, unable to see their loved ones and surrounded by adults wearing masks that hide much of their faces. And even though 'normal' life has resumed again, those uncertain years have likely left an impression.
With all that in mind, we’ve gathered together a list of great reads you can enjoy with your kids to encourage them to manage, understand and overcome their anxiety. Through storytelling, they can learn coping mechanisms and come to realise that everyone feels worried sometimes – but it needn’t be something we have to face alone.
Ruby's Worry: A Big Bright Feelings Book by Tom Percival, £5.94, Amazon
Ruby loves being Ruby. Until, one day, she finds a worry. At first it's not such a big worry, and that's all right, but then it starts to grow. It gets bigger and bigger every day and it makes Ruby sad. How can Ruby get rid of it and feel like herself again?
Parents say: "This is a beautiful book which helps children understand their worries. The book conveys the message that a worry is a burden which you can shift by sharing it with people. The illustrations are delightful. I think the book could really help children open up about their worries."
Calm, Happy Kids by Rob Plevin, £8.65, Amazon
Ages: 3-7 and beyond
This collection of mindfulness-based activities aims to help children feel calm, focused and happy by managing their emotions using mindfulness, meditation and breathwork. With the ideas and activities shared in the four main sections, children can learn how to calm down when restless or fidgety, how to focus and concentrate, ·how to feel happier when facing difficulties and how to prepare their mind and body for sleep.
Parents say: "This book is targeted at children but suitable for all, even adults will find an internal calm and happiness with the activities represented.
"My favourite activity is one called “Squish” which I used with my son who has held my hand to sleep for what feels like forever. After completing the activity he fell asleep all on his own within minutes. I have also used several activities with students at school and have seen similar positive results.
"Add to that the beautifully illustrated pages, and heaps of extra resources provided at no additional cost, I highly recommend this book if you have or work with children."
I am Stronger than Anxiety by Elizabeth Cole, £8.63, Amazon
This cute picture book, featuring Little Nick, teaches children how to overcome worries, fear and phobias as well as understanding how to cope with anxiety. It provides tips and techniques on what to do when your children feel worried, nervous, anxious or scared and delivers important messages aimed at improving kids’ self-regulation skills.
Parents say: "I Am Stronger Than Anxiety is a great way to introduce children to the idea of anxiety. I think it is important to get children to understand their feelings and that what they feel is valid and normal. This book gives strategies on how to reduce anxious feelings, but I think the best part of the book is letting children know what these feelings are, how to recognize them and that it is okay to feel them. Fantastic book with great illustrations with a great message. I would recommend this book with no hesitation."
Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety by Steve Herman, £9.95, Amazon
Having a pet dragon is very fun! He can sit, roll over, and play… But what if your dragon is constantly worrying about so many things? What if he’s worried about his math test even though he has studied very hard? What if he’s so nervous about his upcoming book report in front of the class? What if your dragon is always asking: "What If?" What should you do? You teach him how to deal with his anxiety!
Parents say: "This author manages to word these stories in a way that engages children and makes them think. Just being told the rules by parents often doesn't sink in but of these rules and techniques are explained within a story they can be relatable and make your child stop and think. My daughter sits with her toy dragon and will use the stories in these books through play, reciting and using the ideas within."
Being a kid, you have lots of responsibilities and things to worry about - it's something Allyson, the little girl in the story is dealing with. Luckily she has a pet unicorn - Dazzle Delight - who helps her stop worrying. Kids can follow the cute story and learn how to cope with anxiety in a way they can easily understand.
Parents say: "This is a great book for anxious kids, especially those who love unicorns! Very helpful."
Mindful Monster: Being Calm! by Elisa Anderson, £7.77, Amazon
In this book, the Mindful Monster will guide you and your kids on the best way to try and face stressful situations. It’s not by dashing head-first into the problem. It’s not by leaving the situation for someone else to solve. It’s definitely not by calling a fairy god-mother! Then how? The Mindful Monster is here to help, using colorful illustrations and simple mindful exercises on how to deal with stress for kids - and adults too!
Parents say: "My child with anxiety really enjoyed it and found it helpful. She says she'll try to read it when she's feeling anxious."
The Anxiety Toolkit for Teens by Teen Thrive, £13.70, Amazon
Ages: 13 +
Nearly one in three teens have anxiety - the teenage years can be a worrying time, with a lot of pressure to be involved in a lot of activities, get into a good university, be good at sport, get good grades at school and navigate friendships and maybe even romances. This book helps teens manage stress, worry and panic by providing tools and methods including mindfulness, cbt and dbt techniques and more.
Parents say: "This book has clear descriptions of where anxiety arises from and how we respond in an engaging format. This is followed with loads of strategies and activities (called tools) that teens can use to support them in managing their anxieties. For each strategy tips on what it might help with, what to do and when to use it are clearly explained. A very useful book for teens to use on their own or when supported by others."
Don't worry, Be Happy by Poppy O'Neill, £3.99, Amazon
This practical guide combines proven cognitive-behavioral therapy methods used by child psychologists in schools with simple activities to help your child to overcome anxiety. It’s aimed at children aged 7–11 because a lot happens in these years that can impact a child’s emotional well-being, not just now but for years to come. Little ones are guided, with the help of Fiz – a friendly and supportive character they can identify with – through fun and engaging activities which are interspersed with useful tips, inspirational statements and practical information for parents.
Parents say: "This is amazing. My son opened this up and balled his eyes out because it was the first thing that fully understood how he felt. It's now helping him and us all work through his anxiety."
Happy Confident Me Journal by Annabel Rosenhead, £7.99, Amazon
A daily journal for kids aged 6-12 to promote increased happiness, self-confidence, optimism, pride, resilience and gratitude. Developed by Psychotherapist Annabel Rosenhead and Parenting Expert and best-selling Author Nadim Saad, this beautifully illustrated, full colour journal offers children different inspiring quotes and questions every day. It opens up little ones' abilities to better understand themselves, reflect on the positives each day and find it easier to discuss their feelings and identify their emotions.
Parents say: "I bought this for my (almost) 10-year-old daughter. I've seen her become increasingly withdrawn since lockdown. Having read reviews I decided to order and am so happy I did. It helps kids identify emotions and find ways to counteract negative thoughts/feelings with positivity. It also teaches kids to identify the things they are grateful for, which helps kids realise how loved and lucky they are."
I'm Calm: A Book to Help Kids Overcome Anxiety and Stressful Situations by Jayneen Sanders, £9.15, Amazon
Theodore is calm. But everyone else in his family isn't! In a time of stress and anxiety, Theodore shows his family ways he's learned to stay calm. Through this engaging and beautifully illustrated story, children will learn that in stressful situations they can still find a place of calm and peace using mindfulness techniques.
Parents say: "This lovely book is a favourite in our house and I’ve definitely seen a positive change in the kids since we started reading it. It even made me get back into meditation again."
The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright, £5.76, Amazon
It's a beautiful day and Worrysaurus has planned a special picnic. But it isn't long before a small butterfly of worry starts fluttering in his tummy . . . What if he hasn't brought enough to eat? What if he gets lost in the jungle? What if he trips and falls? What if it rains?! Can Worrysaurus find a way to chase his fears away and have fun? The perfect book to help every anxious little dinosaur let go of their fears and feel happy in the moment.
Parents say: "This book has a beautiful message about staying in the moment and not letting worries consume you. For young children, it introduces a gentle way of identifying and discussing the feeling of ‘worry’ effectively. We have a few Rachel Bright books but this one is my favourite."
What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, £12.79, Amazon
This interactive self-help book is designed to guide children and their parents through the cognitive-behavioral techniques most often used in the treatment of generalized anxiety. Engaging, encouraging, and easy to follow, this book educates, motivates, and empowers children to work towards change.
Parents say: "This book has really helped my nine-year-old daughter with her anxiety, a problem that seems to increase as she gets older. We had spoken to the GP and school were also trying to help but this book is the thing that made the difference. We worked through the book as advised, one chapter a day. She really enjoyed the drawing activities she had to complete as we went along and she has learned some very valuable coping strategies that really seem to have made a difference."
When Worry Takes Hold by Liz Haske, £7.61, Amazon
Ages: 4-8 years
One night just before the lights went out, Worry snuck into Maya's mind. Worry grew bigger and bigger until there was no space left for anything else. Just darkness and fear. Join Maya as she finds Courage, through the form of a calming breath, and learns how to break free from Worry's hold.
Parents say: "One of the things that I love about this book is that it addresses that Maya made the choice to replace worry with courage by way of calm breathing. It wasn't that she never worried again, but that she greeted it and then moved on. Then she realized that she didn't meet each new thing with "what if", but instead replaced it with right thinking."
How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear by Jayneen Sanders, £6.45, Amazon
Ages: 3-9 years
Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear’s help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all. Through this engaging and beautifully illustrated story, children will learn that everyday worries and fears can be overcome.
Parents say: "Read this book to my son and I could see he was interested in the character and his concerns. For a five-year-old, I didn’t expect him to understand what worrying feels like. I liked how the topic was addressed and solved in a simple way. It created awareness to my son about what worries were and how he can communicate about them."
No Worries! Mindful Kids: An Activity Book For Children Who Sometimes Feel Anxious Or Stressed by Sharie Coombes, £4.50, Amazon
This interactive self-care activity book helps children to colour and doodle their way to happiness, calm and confidence. The encouraging and simple activities and exercises tackle anxiety, sadness and stress; children will use their creativity to combat negative feelings, work out why they feel worried and how to put stress back in its place through writing, colouring and drawing.
Parents say: "I bought this for a friend's eight-year-old son who was having some problems with anxiety and worry. He loved it, as did she. They would go through it together and she could talk to him about the worries he was putting down or ask him to talk more about what the book was asking him to do, in an observatory way, rather than quizzing him on how he was feeling."
100th Day Worries by Margery Cuyler, £11.13, Amazon
Ages: 5-8 years
Jessica is a worrier. She worries about everything, and that includes what to bring to class for 100th Day. Nothing she can think of seems right. 100 ice cubes? Too melty. 100 marshmallows? Too sticky. 100 toothpicks? Too pointy. Jessica counts, adds, and multiplies her way to the 100th day of class. And in the end, with the loving support of her family, finds the answer to her 100th Day worries.
Parents say: "This is a delightful book and gives very helpful strategies for managing worries. When I read it to a 1st grade class and they were very keen and we had a good discussion about worrying. They loved the idea of a collection of 100 things."
The Huge Bag Of Worries by Virginia Ironside, £11.13, Amazon
Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her - in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time - at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them? A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a springboard into important conversations
Parents say: "I simply can't recommend this book highly enough. Bought for my son when he was 5. The day after I read it to him he was terrified but wasn't able to tell me in a public place. I took him home. He relaxed. Told me his worry as he said you give your worry away. It's a simple and visual way to get a child to verbalise their fears. I'm now buying it again, I've bought several as gifts, my friends are foster carers."
The Worries by Rachel Taranaki, £11.13, Amazon
This colourful book features different monsters that represent a number of worries, including those that are Big and those that are Small. Kids can follow the story to see how the main characters overcome them, and it also supports parents in initiating conversations on how little ones are feeling and to talk about anything that's bothering them.
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