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Books to Manage Fear and Anxiety

No matter how hard we try to shelter young children from disturbing news, it has the unfortunate tendency to get through, whether from an overheard conversation or even by putting their new found reading skills to use and learning it for themselves.  School begins in a couple of days and your child may be expressing more than the usual post-holiday, lack of interest in returning.  Or perhaps they’re clingier than usual and you find you’re exhausting your bag of tricks to help them feel safe and reassured.  When you are running out of comforting words, the public library has books that can serve as conversation starters and offer new techniques to support you and your child in managing their fear and anxiety.  

On That Day: A Book of Hope for Children” by Andrea Patel acknowledges that sometimes bad things happen and offers small, but important actions that children can take “to make the world right again.”  Although it was written in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11th, the statement, “one day a terrible thing happened.  The world...got badly hurt.” is applicable to any tragedy.  Children will appreciate the honesty of text like “sometimes bad things happen because people...hurt each other on purpose...This is scary, and hard to understand, even for grown-ups.”  These difficult words are not the end of a conversation, but the beginning.  Children are encouraged to help the world heal by sharing, playing, laughing and being kind.  The book ends with a reminder that we all need to hear, “When bad things happen, only a small piece of the world breaks, not the whole world...There will always be good things [and] you are one [of them.]”   

The introduction to “When I Feel Scared” by Cornelia Maude Spelman, L.C.S.W., encourages parents to squelch the instinct to say, “that’s nothing to be afraid of” and instead, empower children to identify and cope with their fear.  The first sentence is straightforward, “Sometimes I feel scared” and then lists some things that cause fear, “when there’s a big, loud noise...or when my mother goes away.”  One of the most relatable sentences for any age is “Sometimes I just feel scared and I don’t know why!”  Through the characters, Spelman offers actions to take when you are feeling fear, such as asking to be held, cuddling “with someone, with my blanket or stuffed animal.”  She also suggests steps that can be taken for some fears, “look under the bed to see what’s there” and learn that the dark can be nice.  Friendly and colorful bear characters draw children into this simple text that’s rife with encouragement.

Scary News: 12 Ways to Raise Joyful Children When the Headlines are Full of Fear” by Lorna Ann Knox offers tangible actions that parents can take to “create an environment that protects and nurtures children during the vulnerable years of early childhood.”  After all it only takes what she calls “the speed of dark,” the seconds before you realize you’ve heard something tragic, to disrupt the shelter you have tried to create.  This highly readable book aimed at adults is another great resource assisting adults in supporting their children through difficult times and thus helping themselves in return.  

Originally published in the 12/31/12 Free Lance-Star newspaper.