Books can help youth navigate anxiety | Education | –

Books can serve as an entry point for children to talk about their mental health. The following titles feature relatable characters who are navigating anxiety with the help of friends, family and professionals.

Picture BooksWe have two picture book recommendations for reading with children facing anxiety.

“Violet Shrink,” written by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Carmen Mok, features Violet, who does not like large parties with lots of noise and people interactions. Violet’s dad brings her to functions, shindigs, get-togethers and other things that resemble a party where Violet gets a stomachache, sweaty palms and hot ears.

Violet tells her dad how she feels going to all these events, and in the end she is able to read and be quiet on her own; that takes away the worry and stomachache. It is a nice story showing that when a parent and child communicate, situations can improve.

“Playing Possum,” written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, shows Possum and Armadillo, who react to situations they are uncomfortable with by freezing up or rolling in a ball.

Each animal waits for the other to calm down, and they become friends once they have gotten used to the new circumstances and people around them. This is a sweet story showing that people react to new or stressful situations differently, and if you give a person time, they might be able to open up and become a friend.

Middle Grades“Thanks a Lot, Universe” by Chad Lucas is a tender, older tween book that alternates narrators each chapter. We meet introvert Brian, whose family falls apart on his 13th birthday.

Suddenly he and his little brother, Richie, are sent to a foster home, and all of the anxiety Brian has lived with his whole life gets worse — to the point of panic attacks.

Ezra spent the basketball season on the bench with Brian, but they were not friends. Ezra already had his crew, including best friend Colby, until he realizes they are moving in different directions. Colby is hanging out with a bully, and Ezra is getting real about his developing feelings for Brian.

Brian and Ezra are afraid to let people know who they really are, but they learn that by being honest with themselves and each other, they can face all the changes in store for them.

TeensIn “One Way or Another” by Kara McDowell, Paige is so overwhelmed by the “what-ifs” in life that she is a constant bundle of nerves. Choosing between visiting New York City for the first time with her mom or seeing snow in northern Arizona for the first time with the boy she has liked forever is beyond her capability, so the author takes the reader on a “Sliding Doors”-type of ride.

In alternating chapters, Paige checks off the must-sees on her NYC list with Harrison, the son of her mom’s friend, and spends Christmas with Fitz and his family in the mountains.

But just because she is realizing her dreams come true, her uncertainties don’t go away, and Paige must confront that anxiety before she can move forward with a new romance and her future.