Separation Anxiety

These books address children’s fears about separation from caregivers. Many children with separation anxiety worry about something bad happening to their caregivers, or to themselves while they are separated. These fears often show up when kids are transitioning back to school, going to first sleepover parties, being left with a new babysitter, or after a scare (e.g., a parent being late for pick-up at school), although they can sometimes pop up unexpectedly too. There are many children’s books on this topic; I chose a sampling that provides a variety of different coping strategies, including visualization, self-soothing strategies, and cognitive-behavioral techniques to help children learn more helpful ways of thinking and acting when they are experiencing separation anxiety. I hope that these books are reassuring and empowering to worried children, as well as to their caregivers–separation can be very hard for caregivers too!
Age range: Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: Young children with separation anxiety will likely benefit from reading this book with a caregiver or therapist. It introduces the idea that practicing separations will help the anxiety, not make it worse, and that caregivers aren’t being mean if they don’t accommodate their child’s separation anxiety. It easily leads into a conversation about how a child can cope with separations and how they and their caregivers can start practicing small separations to build up to bigger ones (i.e., graded exposures).
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: Young children who are anticipating missing a caregiver or who are currently missing a caregiver will benefit from the validation this book provides as well as the gentle suggestions for ways to soothe the ache of missing a loved one. This would be a great read prior to a first day of school or to a caregiver going on a trip, or before a child is left with a babysitter. Anyone who ever watches a child while they’re separated from a parent/ caregiver (e.g., relatives, teachers, babysitters) may want to have this book on hand for moments of missing mom or dad (or any other important caregiver). Although divorce isn’t specifically addressed in this book, a child with separated parents might also benefit from reading this book when they are staying with one parent and missing the other.

Owl Babies

Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
Recommended for: Many young children who are anticipating or experiencing a separation from a caregiver will love the emotional journey of this short, simple book and will benefit from the book’s conclusion– despite the owl’s worries and fears, Owl Mother always comes back. This book is probably best for a child whose parent is going to work or leaving for a short period of time, rather than a longer separation.
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: This book is a lovely read for caregivers and their children who have recently developed some separation anxiety or who are anxious about an anticipated separation (e.g., a first day of school). It won’t be enough to fully address significant separation anxiety, but it provides a sweet visualization to help children cope with missing a loved one.