We have all had those moments where we wanted to stay home under the covers rather than face our source of anxiety. Just going to the grocery store right now is enough to trigger a panic attack in the most sane of adults. However, anxiety in kids is on the rise, affecting over 4 million children every day according to the CDC. As the summer ticks by, the impending school year is no doubt to blame for increasing those numbers in kids. One of the best outlets for kids to process their emotions is through fiction reading. (Yes, a few more books to add to the already bursting bookshelves!) For kids of all ages, exploration through books and memoirs helps them identify with how to cope with anxiety— whether it’s school anxiety, social anxiety, or just general anxiety stemming from the world around us.
While a slew of books for children with anxiety exist on Amazon, (we love Breathe Like A Bear by Kira Willey), and can be helpful tools for us well meaning mamas, some of the most powerful support comes in fiction. As kids see anxiety in children their own age play out in various forms through different relatable situations, they can identify with and connect with this, which helps them process their own feelings and emotions. Growing up in the age of the selfie and social media has made our kiddos more narcissistic than ever. So even for kids who aren’t facing anxiety, reading books about anxious characters helps build empathy and social emotional development for peer interactions.
We’ve chosen our favorite memoirs and fiction books to help with anxiety at every reading level from first day of school jitters to YA favorites. We’ve even got an excerpt of the newly released Crabapple Trouble so you can get started right away.
Anxiety Books for Early Readers (Ages 4-8)
The just released Crabapple Trouble, written by Kaeti Vandorn, is the tale of Callaway, a character with an apple head and a huge heart. She wants to do great things and take care of others, but she is full of anxiety, and it’s getting in the way. Set in an orchard with a variety of fruits and veggies as the characters, Callaway must overcome her anxiety around the Summertime Fair. Written as a chapter book graphic novel for young children, the pictures are colorful and engaging, while the words communicate a tale of problem solving, building self-confidence, and learning to ask for help.
This cute and clever story opens the door for us to have those conversations with our kiddos around paralyzing anxiety and negative thoughts with positive role models like Callaway. Early readers will find this a relatable and fun story but it also makes a great book to read together on a rainy afternoon.
Crabapple Trouble’s publishers have shared an excerpt of the new book with us, we hope you’ll enjoy getting a head start with your LO.
Back to school anxiety is one of the most common forms for younger kids, especially for those starting kindergarten. Meet Wemberly. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, is every single one of our kiddos realized. She is worried about everything from spilling her drink to her first day of school. When Wemberly meets a fellow worrier, her outlook begins to change. Wemberly’s picture book is particularly relevant for kids planning on starting remote learning or home schooling this year, as those are very unfamiliar learning models for everyone.
One reviewer shared, “This is a lovely book for little ones who are getting ready to start kindergarten or preschool. While this likely gets selected most of all for children who express a lot of worries, it’s also great to share with kids who are thrilled to try new things. Why? It gives them a chance to develop empathy and understanding for their friends — and for families to talk about how to help out friends who seem scared, nervous or shy.”
Author of the My Dragon book series, Steve Herman, gets to the bottom of anxiety in social situations in the book Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety. Herman believes that our LOs values are determined from a young age, so all of his books teach real world practical lessons. How Your Dragon Deals With Anxiety is no exception by putting the reader in the driver seat as Diggory Doo plays the “What if?” game in every situation. Diggory Doo learns to manage his anxiety throughout the story in a way that’s transferable to our anxious kids.
One mama reviewer commented, “Our 5 year old son recently started having lots of anxiety about leaving our house and what if this or that happened. We found this book and it has been great! It gives tips and tools on what you can do if you’re feeling anxious. It’s written in rhyme form and my son asks to read it, especially when he’s having a hard time. He looked at the back and picked out some of the other books he wants to get!”
Anxiety Books for Kids (Ages 8-12)
Award winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft brings us a graphic novel that everyone should read. Middle school sucks, and being the New Kid is anxiety inducing no matter where you are, but when you’re one of the only kids of color at your new school like Craft’s character Jordan Banks, the stress and anxiety are magnified. Relatable for everyone, but also an excellent choice for building empathy and understanding, you might just find yourself snagging this one out of the Amazon box first.
One mama shared how this became a family affair. “I bought this book for my 7th grade boy and he could not put it down, reading it in one sitting. The next day his 3rd grader sister took the book and she couldn’t stop reading it. I wanted to see what the fuss was about so I took the book next and I ended up staying up late to read the whole thing. My son then brought the book to show his Language Arts teacher and she loved it so much she made New Kid the book of the month for the class. It really is that amazing. I hope that the author writes another book in the series because we all want to know what happens next for Jordan Banks.”
Erin Donne delivers a laugh out loud funny novel, Lights, Camera, Disaster, about a girl named Hester Greene, who loves making movies but also has an executive functioning disorder. Middle school is train wreck, and even more so for Hester who desperately wishes there were pause, fast forward, and stop buttons in her life. Seriously don’t we all? Consumed with her love of film and her fear of failing the 8th grade, Hester needs to overcome the challenges she’s facing while convincing herself and everyone around her that she is not a failure.
One mama commented that, “Hester is a great character that has flaws but will also ring true to people reading the book. The character struggles with panic attacks and definitely others challenges and when my daughter read this, she could relate to the character itself. My oldest daughter loved that Hester dealt with the stress in her life through film making. I think my daughter enjoyed this because like Hester, she has stress and anxiety in her own life and we have had conversations in the past about how she also deals with this stress.”
Superpowered: Transform Anxiety into Courage, Confidence, and Resilience By Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary
While not yet released (it is available for preorder though!), we can already see the helpful power of Renee Jain’s book, Superpowered: Transform Anxiety into Courage, Confidence, and Resilience as a mantra for middle schoolers (and mamas) everywhere. More than just a junior self-help book, this is an interactive manual for navigating anxiety with long term solutions. The colorful graphics and quizzes are engaging for our tweens, while providing useful information that will be beneficial for their entire lives.
Amazon writes, “Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary make readers the superheroes of their own stories. They introduce a toolkit of easy-to-understand methods for recognizing anxious behaviors, identifying the root causes of worried thinking, and realizing that strength can be found in reclaiming one’s inner superpowers.” We love their superhero acronym P.O.W.E.R. for encouraging mental strength.
Anxiety Books for Teens & YA Readers (Ages 12+)
For our teen readers is there anything more engaging than a romance of their peers? Definitely not. Pepper in an anxiety disorder and a sweet holiday vacation as the story’s background, and we have the makings of a must read YA book. Paige Collins is completely relatable as she struggles to make decisions. As mamas we all want a day off from decision making (we were mind blown to read that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day), but it’s an important skill our teens need and one that many struggle with.
Paige needs to decide between going away with best-friend and long time crush over the Christmas holiday, or taking the trip of a lifetime with her mom. Set to be released on October 6th, One Way Or Another is a perfect reading choice for our teens as the stress and anxiety of the holidays starts to slowly build throughout the fall.
A true story of her personal experience with finally feeling the freedom of escaping to college from home, Samantha Schutz, also was faced with dealing with the reality of her mental health. Suffering extreme physical symptoms and mental defeat, Schutz developed the skills necessary for coping with life long anxiety. Written as a memoir in the form of poetry, I Don’t Want to Be Crazy, shares the good, the bad, and the ugly with the tone and tempo of the verse to match the emotions.
One teen reader (and anxiety sufferer) shared, “Nice to share in another’s person’s perspective for a bit and see how they’ve gone through a similar mental gauntlet. Reads like a well-put-together diary. As Samantha details her downs, up, and downs you see that you are not alone at all; just as there is hope for her (and you want there to be hope) so for you, as well.”
Questioning issues of gender identity and sexuality is anxiety producing in almost every teen. Author Mason Deaver gives us the story of Ben De Backer in I Wish You All The Best. A story of a teen who comes out as nonbinary to their parents, which sets off a chain of events triggering their anxiety disorder even further. Navigating their senior year, Ben’s tale unfolds of one filled with love, friendship, and hope. The conversational style of the book will engage even our most reluctant readers, while Ben’s anxiety triggered by trauma will resonate with many.
One teen reviewer wrote, “Oh. My. I will be talking about this book forever. No one will ever be able to get me to stop because it is so damn important. This book is pure magic. Written by a nonbinary author, with a nonbinary main character, I Wish You All The Best brings something crucial to the world.” We couldn’t agree more!
Looking for more ideas for entertaining (and educating) the kiddos? Check out all of our mom approved books and kids gear.