It has been a long time since we had a toddler in the house, so I am going to have to dust down what memories I have to power through these years once again. At times when my children are going through the various waves of emotions, books can prove to be a great way to soothe any worries they have.
Anxiety can affect people of all ages and it is so healthy to see the topic of mental health and mindfulness being shared more openly in schools, colleges and in the home. We know that anxiety isn’t fun, and it is especially tough when you’re a little person facing a big world full of new experiences or overwhelming situations. Some children find going to school difficult. They feel anxious about school when they are at home, but settle down during the school day, while others only display anxiety whilst at school.
Some parents find their children’s distress at going to school can lead to daily upsets, so here are some things as recommended by YoungMinds UK that can really help:-
Tackle it early – the longer anxiety about school persists, the deeper it becomes. Seek professional help where needed
Talk to your child - listen to their fears and respect their feelings. Try out practical strategies that help them to be in control of their anxiety. For example, younger children could try a making a ‘worry box’ where at a certain time each day they write down their worry, post it in the box, close the lid and don't worry any more about it that day.
Talk to the school – make them aware of what is going on and agree on strategies to make things easier. This could include things like a buddy, and regular check-ins on progress.
Reduce your child’s fear of failure - Help them to recognise that these things happen to everyone and it’s ok.
Stick to Routines - Kids work best with routine, so make sure their routines are consistent, including mealtimes, reading time and homework.
Children’s books publishers have responded to the spike by producing more books aimed specifically at helping kids cope with all this ambient anxiety. Books are a great way to help and support children to slow down and breathe easy, even during rough moments.
Here is my top ten selection of books which could prove to be a good buy for your child/children. Or why not buy a few for a friend or family member who needs it for their child too?
Kindness matters...pass it on.
1. Poor Little Rabbit! by Jörg Mühle
Best for ages 3 - 5
This brilliant board book invites a child to “help” someone else who’s hurting — which works wonders to induce a calmer state of mind. Little Rabbit has fallen down and scraped his arm, leaving a red mark. Your toddler is invited to “try blowing on it.” Uh-oh: On the next page, Little Rabbit wails, “There’s blood!” A Band-Aid (with bunnies on it, of course) appears. “Can you put it on?” comes next but tears still stream down the distressed bunny’s face. And so on, until the bunny feels better — and, chances are, your toddler does too.
2. When Worry Takes Hold by Liz Haske
Best for: Ages 4 - 8
When Worry sneaks into Maya's mind, it seems like nothing can stop it from growing bigger and bigger, until it shadows everything that Maya does and leaves her alone in the dark with her fear. In this metaphorical story about dealing with worry, kids will see how Maya's Worry (represented in the illustrations as a tangled scribble) keeps her from enjoying even the simplest things in life. Then, when Maya learns belly breathing, she discovers she can summon her Courage, represented by sparkles, which helps her overcome her worries — even if it doesn't completely dismiss Worry for good. This encouraging and empowering read will help worriers and non-worriers alike.
3. Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri
Best for: Ages 3 - 5
Sometimes a serene and philosophical picture book is just the thing to improve a frazzled mood and set the world right. In this one a bear and a wolf, out for night time walks, cross paths and decide to hike together, first through snowy winter vistas, then later through green springtime fields. Nothing much happens. Their peaceful companionship and mutual appreciation of sublime natural beauty are more than enough.
4.Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Best for: Ages 3 – 5
Scaredy Squirrel does not want to leave his tree; there are too many scary things awaiting him down on the ground. So, what happens when he falls out of his nest? This clever, funny tale is perfect for little ones who are afraid to shake up their usual routine and embrace the unknown.
5.The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Best for: Ages 6 - 11
Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo but mostly it spends its time in the basement. It doesn't visit Laszlo in his room. Until one night it does . . . Join Lazlo on his journey to meet the dark and find out why it will never bother him again. With emotional insight and poetic economy, two world-renowned talents of children's literature bring to light a powerful story about overcoming fears.
6. The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright
Best for: Ages 3 - 5
If your little one worries about change, she’ll love Kevin the koala, who wants every day to be exactly.the.same. Perfect for story time and discovering all the joys that can come along with embracing change.
7. Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
Best for: Ages 4 – 8
When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family’s house, they’re all terrified... except for Small, the youngest, who chases the rapidly shrinking dog throughout the whole neighbourhood. By the time they get back to the house, Small’s courage has shrunk the dog enough that it fits through the cat door, and the Hopes agree that he doesn’t seem so scary after all — and invite him into the family. This charming metaphorical story uses the story of a family taking in a dog who's not "as huge nor as scary as they feared" to teach kids the power of facing their fears.
8. Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna
Best for: Ages 4 – 8
The little girl in this story has always had a tiny friend called Fear: a small, white creature with an uncertain smile. But when her family immigrates to a new country, Fear gets bigger and bigger, growing with every uncertainty and every moment of confusion. Fear also tries to change the way she sees the world, telling the girl that she'll always be lonely and afraid... but this little girl is stronger than even her biggest Fear, and when she sees past Fear to discover a willing friend, she discovers that everyone has a Fear — and that talking about your fears can help overcome them. This empowering story encourages kids to recognise that fear is natural and understandable, while also realising that fear doesn't have to control their lives.
9. Ruby Finds A Worry by Tom Percival
Best for: Ages 4 – 8
When Ruby first meets the Worry, a yellow scribble with a furrowed brow, it's so small that she barely notices it. But over time, it gets bigger and bigger — and it starts draining all the other colors from the page. Before long, it's so big that the Worry keeps Ruby from doing the things she loves. Then one day, she sees a boy at the playground with a blue-scribble Worry of his own... and when she talks to him about it, she discovers that talking about your Worries can help keep them manageable and small. This kid-friendly story is an excellent way to talk to kids about anxiety and worry while highlighting that there are ways to seek support when you need it.
10.The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld
Best for: Ages 3-5
For an agitated toddler, this lovely book is like a cool drink of water on a hot day. A child named Taylor, who’s wonderfully drawn to be either a boy or a girl, builds a block tower that falls down. Everyone who comes by to help, including a chicken and an elephant, is full of well-meaning advice. Only a silent rabbit offers what Taylor — like all of us — needs: the comfort of someone who will just listen, laugh and give a hug.