Sunday, February 27, 2022

When Fears Rush In: How children’s books might help anxiety.

As Russia continues to invade and attack the nation of Ukraine, children will be fearful and afraid around the world. While nations seek to push back an international bully, parents wonder across all nations, how can we encourage and reassure our children? As children see and hear newsflashes that adults seem very interested in, what might they be thinking. Also, if they ask questions about the situation in Ukraine, what might we say? Some parents will say little or nothing, others will say too much. Perhaps taking some time to hold your children and read to them might be a good thing to do.

Throughout history, stories have been helpful to allow humans to gain insights into specific life situations, as well as comfort and encouragement not to allow fear to take a hold of them. This post looks briefly at a number of wonderful books that might be helpful to share at this time to allow any lingering fears within our children to be discussed. These aren’t necessarily, the ‘magic’ books that will help to remove all fear, they are examples of books that might allow parents to open up difficult fears, shine a light on them and offer comfort and hope to our children.


1. 'Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?' by Martin Waddell & illustrated by Barbara Firth


It's another sleepless night for Little Bear in his dark cave. Big Bear lovingly brings brighter and brighter lanterns to help ease the cub's fears. When those don't help, there's only one thing left to do: show Little Bear the warm, ever-shining glow of the stars and moon. This soothing story ranks up there with our other favorite bedtime stories like Good Night, Moon.


This book by Martin Waddell has been described as 'the most perfect children's book ever written'. It is about a Little Bear, who just can't sleep. There is dark all around him in the Bear Cave. Not even Big Bear's biggest lantern can light up the darkness of the night outside. Can Big Bear find a way to reassure restless Little Bear and help him fall fast asleep?

Recommended age: 3 and up.


2. 'What a Bad Dream' by Mercer Mayer

Nightmares happen to everyone, including Little Critter. One night, one of his dreams starts out great, with him skipping baths, eating fudge pops for breakfast, and getting a gorilla as a pet. But it quickly turns into a nightmare when he realizes his family is nowhere to be found, so he has no one to read to him, tuck him in, and give him a hug. Everything is better when he wakes up to his mom and dad comforting him.


3. 'Wilma Jean the Worry Machine’ by Julia Cook and Illustrated by Anita Dufalla

"My stomach feels like it's tied up in a knot.
My knees lock up, and my face feels hot.
You know what I mean?
I'm Wilma Jean,
The Worry Machine."



Anxiety is a subjective sense of worry, apprehension, and/or fear. It is arguably the number one health problem in most nations. While common, anxiety in children is often misdiagnosed or even overlooked. Everyone can feel fear, worry and apprehension occasionally, when feelings prevent someone from doing what he/she wants and/or needs to do, anxiety becomes a disability.


This is a fun book that addresses the challenge of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It also offers strategies for parents and teachers to use with children to lessen the severity of anxiety. The book aims to help children develop tools to feel more in control of anxiety. The book also includes a note to parents and educators with tips on dealing with an anxious child.


4. How Big are Your Worries Little Bear’ by Jayneen Sanders & illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman


Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear’s help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all. 


Through this engaging and beautifully illustrated story, children will learn that everyday worries and fears can be overcome. It just takes a willingness to share with a helpful listener, and an understanding that making mistakes is how we learn. 


Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators, and extra hints to help children manage anxiety.


 5. 'The Invisible String' by Patrice Karst & illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff


‘The Invisible String’ has been acclaimed as a wonderful tool for helping children to cope with separation anxiety, loss, and grief. It is a relatable and reassuring contemporary classic. The story centres around a mother who tells her two children that they're all connected by an invisible string. "That's impossible!" the children insist. But still they want to know more: "What kind of string?" Their mother says it is simple. There is “An Invisible String made of love. Even though you can't see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love."


The book poses many questions. “Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach? Does it ever go away?” It is a wonderful picture book for all ages. It explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and those who love and care for us. The book will allow deeper conversations about love, fear, security and hope.


The book has been recommended and used by parents, bereavement support groups, foster care and social service agencies. It has also been embraced by military library services, church groups, and educators. This special book offers a simple approach to dealing with loneliness, separation, and loss.  with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, and delivers a particularly compelling message in today's uncertain times.


6.  'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' by Judith Kerr

This is a book for older readers 10-13. It is a semi-autobiographical classic, written by the beloved Judith Kerr, it tells the story of a Jewish family escaping Germany in the days before the Second World War. It tells the story of Anna living in Germany in 1933. As a child, she has not listened to talk of a leader called Adolf Hitler. She is too busy with her schoolwork, Friends and tobogganing.


This beautiful new edition celebrates the fifty-year anniversary of an adventure that Michael Morpurgo called “The most life-enhancing book you could ever wish to read.” But one day Anna and her brother Max are rushed out of Germany in alarming secrecy, away from everything they know. Their father is wanted by the Nazis. This is the start of a huge adventure, sometimes frightening, but also funny and always exciting.


Judith Kerr wrote the book based on her own journey, so that her own children would know where she came from and the lengths to which her parents went to keep her and her brother safe. It is recognized today as a classic that is required reading for children all over the world.