Monday, September 30, 2019

The Best Anxiety Picture Books for Kids

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If you have an anxious child who is always worrying, then you'll love this list of children's books about anxiety for kids. You can use these anxiety picture book suggestions to open up a discussion about anxiety with your child, teach them valuable coping strategies, and help them better understand what anxiety is.

When you have a kid that taught themselves to read before age two (hello, hyperlexia!), you go through a lot of books.

And that's precisely what I did to put together this book list. Yep, I read a lot of books in order to write this list of children's books on anxiety. I'm pretty sure I checked out every available option from my public library...

But with good reason.

I wanted to make sure you had a good solid list of recommendations of anxiety books that you could share with your kids and open up a discussion about anxiety.

In particular, I wanted the books on this list to be helpful for kids who worry. I wanted the books to explain what anxiety is in a kid friendly way and how it presents itself in a child's day to day life. I wanted kids to enjoy the stories, but still walk away with helpful strategies and ideas that they could actually use.

Basically, I wanted a list of books that would teach and empower kids about their anxiety so they can better understand how to manage and cope with their worries.

So let's dig in, shall we?

Picture books about anxiety for kids

About this List of Children's Books About Anxiety

Before I dive in, however, here's what you need to know about this list of books for kids who worry:

  • There are suggestions on this list that are better geared towards little ones and then there are others that are better geared towards older kids. So be sure to read my descriptions closely and review the suggested ages on the Amazon listings to make sure they are the right fit for your child.
  • This list will be continually added to as I find and discover new children's books on anxiety.
  • I have actually, physically read every single book on this list myself. I think it's important for parents to read books closely themselves to make sure the anxiety books they share with their children are accurate, positive, and helpful.
  • I've also included a section that talks about a few popular anxiety books for kids that I didn't like and why. I don't want you to waste time on books that aren't that great. But obviously, all opinions are my own and you might disagree. That's totally fine!
Picture books for kids who worry

The Best Picture Books About Anxiety for Kids

Hey Warrior - a children's book about anxiety

1. Hey Warrior

By Karen Young
Illustrated by Norvile Dovidonyte

Okay, this book is fantastic for a lot of reasons. Right away you'll notice the adorable illustrations, but the text itself is so good. The book does a really great job of explaining what anxiety is and why it happens, in a kid friendly way. And it also gives practical strategies that kids can use to deal with their worries.

Here are a just a few other comments I want to make about this book:

  • Love that it names the brain part involved (amygdala), describes it as a child's anxiety warrior, and encourages kids to name their amygdala, which is handy for when your child needs to talk back to their worries
  • Uses really good analogies that kids will understand (talking about toasters and fire alarms to explain how the amygdala works)
  • Describes the body sensations of anxiety positively
  • Gives practical strategies like talking back, using positive affirmations, and deep breathing
I think that this book is better geared towards slightly older kids because it is quite detailed and has lots of text. So it might be overwhelming for little ones.

There is also another book by this author called Hey Awesome, but I haven't found a copy of it to read yet.

2. The Worry Box

By Suzanne Chiew
Illustrated by Sean Julian

In this cute book, Murray the bear has worries so Molly shows him how to make a worry box to keep his worries in. There's so much to like about this book. For instance, I love how Molly validates Murray's feelings and worries. I also like how this book shows that everyone has worries. And finally, it offers lots of practical strategies like making a worry box (like the title implies), taking a deep breath, and talking about our worries with others.

3. All Birds Have Anxiety

By Kathy Hoopmann

Full color photographs of cute, and sometimes hilarious looking birds, show what it's like to live with anxiety on a daily basis in this book. I like how it describes lots of physical symptoms of anxiety and how anxiety can impact daily life. It gives lots of tips on how to control/manage anxiety, but I do wish it went into more depth for each suggestion.

Overall, a good book. It does have lots of text so it is better geared towards older kids.

4. Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster

By Michelle Nelson-Schmidt

If you have an anxious child, then you're all too familiar with the phrase, "But what if..."

But what if you were to rephrase those what if questions? That's what this little book is about. I love the rhyming and I think the whatif monster is so cute!

5. Is a Worry Worrying You?

By Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz
Illustrated by Marie Le Tourneau

This book offers a fun and helpful approach to managing daily worries. Some of the worries are silly and some are more serious. But all worries - silly or not - are given positive solutions to help address them. I particularly like the format of this book in that a worry is introduced on one page and then the next page offers a solution to that worry. This book also does a good job describing what a worry is and gives lots of practical anxiety strategies at the end.

However, I need to talk about the illustrations though. They are a tad bit creepy, in my opinion. They kind of remind me of Tim Burton's style. So some children might get scared by the illustrations in this book. Not necessarily the ideal choice of illustrations to use for a children's book designed for anxious kids. However, it's still a really good book though!

Ruby Finds a Worry anxiety picture book for kids who worry

6. Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

One day Ruby finds a worry and it starts to grow bigger and bigger, reinforcing the idea that how worrying about a worry can actually make things worse. I like how this book shows that talking about worries can make those worries shrink, making you feel better. It also reminds kids that lots of people have worries and that they're not alone.

The illustrations are super cute and it obviously features a person of color as the main character (as you can tell by the cover). Representation matters!

Please note that this book may have an alternate title and cover: Ruby's Worry.

7. Pilar's Worries

By Victoria M. Sanchez
Illustrated by Jess Gordon

And speaking of representation, here's another anxiety picture book featuring a non-white child. In this book, Pilar loves to dance, but she also worries a lot, especially about auditioning for a part in a ballet. The book does a great job describing some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, but it also teaches kids the importance of remembering to breathe. It also teaches positive self-talk like, "I can do this!" I thought the illustrations in this book were beautiful too.

8. Don't Think About Purple Elephants

By Susanne Whelan
Illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Sophie worries at night when everything in the house turns quiet and has trouble sleeping. Her mom tells her not to think about purple elephants, which distracts her enough to help her fall asleep. As you can tell, this book teaches the anxiety technique of distracting oneself (something I talk about here).

What I found particularly interesting is how the illustrations would change to primarily black and white except for whatever she was worrying about, that stayed in color. I thought it was really powerful imagery.

9. Thank Goodness for Bob

By Matthew Morgan
Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

This book illustrates the important of talking about your worries, even if it's just with your pet dog. I like how this book showed all kinds of worries from spiders and monsters to the dark or no one liking him. It reinforces that worries come in all shapes and sizes and that it's natural and normal to worry. And that we all worry to some degree.

I also like how this book focuses on teaching a strategy to deal with anxious thoughts. Specifically, talking about worries and letting them float away like they're bubbles. Then popping the bubbles to let go of the worrying thoughts.

10. The Don't Worry Book

By Todd Parr

The first thing I want to say is that I dislike the title of this book a lot. It's a really dismissive and overall, an unhelpful title. I mean telling a kid to "don't worry," isn't effective. At all.

However, the book itself is a nice simple introduction to worries for little ones. It presents common worries at the beginning and then gives practical coping strategies in the second half of the book. Although some of the strategies are super silly like wearing underwear on your head. But laughter and distraction can certainly help an anxious child!

Worry Says What? children's book about anxiety

11. Worry Says What?

By Allison Edwards
Illustrated by Ayesha Rubio

When I first stumbled across the book, the author's name looked familiar. Well, she's the author of Why Smart Kids Worry, an anxiety book I recommended on my anxiety book list for parents, so I was quite excited to check this book out.

This book describes the importance of talking back to the worry and using logic (the girl reminds herself to "tell myself what is true") and how those strategies can help shrink the worry (as shown by the worry monster getting smaller and smaller). I describe both of these anxiety strategies here. This book also offers three really great strategies at the end of the book for parents to try with their anxious kids.

Overall, a good little book with cute illustrations.

Small Things anxiety book for older kids

12. Small Things

By Mel Tregonning

This book is so different than everything else on this book list. It's a wordless graphic novel in black and white. It's definitely suited for older kids, like tweens or teens, who have good inference skills. However, parents can definitely explain what is happening to younger kids and open up a discussion about anxiety. And anxious adults themselves will definitely relate to this book.

I love the illustrations in this book. They're incredibly detailed and effective at showing how worries and anxious thoughts can gnaw away at a person. They might be a tad scary for little ones so again, I think this book is better suited for much older kids. The book ends with a powerful reminder to name our fears and reach out to others to help deal with the anxiety.

Jack's Worry - book about worrying for kids

13. Jack's Worry

By Sam Zuppardi

This book does a good job of showing how anxiety can impact day to day life. For example, Jack was so worried he didn't feel like eating. And his worries eventually got so big that he had a meltdown.

This book also shows how pervasive anxious thoughts can be. At one point Jack tries to distract himself from the worries by running around, but the worrying thoughts still crept in.

Eventually Jack finds the words to describe his worries to his mom and his worries start to shrink, showing how helpful it can be to talk about the worry.

14. When My Worries Get Too Big!

By Kari Dunn Buron

This book is kind of a like a workbook and has places for kids to write and draw things related to their worries. It uses the 5 point scale to describe different levels of worries (one being small and five being big) and how that impacts a person's behaviors. It has simple text and drawings and presents a simple calming sequence that kids can use.

Overall, the story itself is just okay for me, but what I really like is that this book includes visuals that you can copy and use with your child. It also offers lots of practical strategies for parents at the end of the book.

15. When Lions Roar

By Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

This book is about a boy overwhelmed by loud noises, which is highly relevant for many autistic or sensory processing kids. This book teaches the strategy of talking back to the worry and how it can make you feel better. It's kind of like hitting the reset buttons, touching on anxiety strategies I share here.

The story is nothing fancy and the text is minimal, but the book is good for toddlers and preschool aged children. Also, I wasn't a huge fan of the illustrations. But overall, the book would still be helpful for lots of anxious kids.

Anxiety picture books about worrying for anxious kids

The Anxiety Picture Books I Didn't Like & Why

Now, I have seen the following books recommended on other picture book lists and I have to say that I kind of wonder if the bloggers behind those lists even read the books they recommend...Seriously, I did not enjoy these ones.

So I want to give you a quick list of books I didn't like and why so you can focus instead on reading the good ones. Look at me doing all the dirty work for you hahaha

1. Wilma Jean, The Worry Machine by Julia Cook - Pair a dismissive mom with lots of text, no real story, and you get a kind of boring not so helpful book. That's this book in a nutshell. I mean, the book offers no real helpful coping strategies to kids who read the book. In fact, she magically gets better, in an instant too, nonetheless, which isn't realistic at all. Super disappointing book, especially for a Julia Cook book.

2. The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside - It had potential, but has some serious flaws. Everyone is so darn dismissive of her worries that it kind of made me mad. Then toss in some negative body image. Yep, she worries about looking fat and calls herself stupid. I wasn't a fan of this book at all.

3. I Can Handle It! by Laurie Wright - Boring and repetitive. I couldn't even finish reading this one.

4. Don't Feed the WorryBug by Andi Green - The drawings are cute, but the solution given at the end of this book isn't as simple and straightforward as they present. The concept of "just don't worry" isn't really a solution.

5. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes - This book isn't helpful in any way. It doesn't explain what worries are or give tips on how to deal with worries. And her parents just keep dismissing her feelings by saying, "Don't worry." I want a book that will empower kids to open up and talk about their worries, not bury their feelings because adults disregard how the child feels.

6. David and the Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci - I hemmed and hawed about where to put this book...It's okay and does offer some great tips for kids and parents at the end. And it does offer some good strategies mentioned throughout the book. But there's so much I didn't like about this book. It is a lot of text for a picture book, in my opinion. The story is kind of boring so paired with the amount of text, this book wouldn't keep my kids attention at all. And the time line? He's instantly amazing at using these coping strategies by the next day. So while I'm not a fan, it might still be a helpful book for some older kids.

Other Resources to Help an Anxious Child

8 Strategies to Help an Anxious Child {Free Coping Cards Printable!}

10 Phrases to Teach an Anxious Child

The Worry Time Technique

Children's books about anxiety for kids who worry