Worry is one of the most common childhood mental health concerns, and it’s a bit trickier to address than some other anxiety concerns because it’s often fueled by “but what ifs” which are impossible to prove wrong. As many a worrier will tell you, just because something went okay this time doesn’t mean it won’t go wrong next time! I’ve included a lot of books on the topic of worry because different worriers need different approaches. There are books that help kids to recognize and challenge (i.e., “talk back”) to worries, books that encourage sharing of worries with a trusted person, books for creating Worry Boxes to contain worries and Coping Boxes to cope with worries, books on mindfulness and relaxation skills, and books that reassure children that even if they’re worrying they can still make friends and have fun. There is even a book for kids struggling with existential dread! I hope there is something in this section to help your worrier to feel understood and empowered, and to find some peace.
Age range: Ideal for 1st graders through 5th graders.
Recommended for: Children struggling with too many worries who want to worry less will likely benefit from going through this interactive workbook with a trusted adult and practicing the recommended skills. It’s a collection of evidence-based practices for worry management, and for some kids, this workbook might be enough to help them learn to get their worries under control! For kids who need a little more support, this workbook could still be a great supplement to therapy. Also available in Spanish.
Age range: Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Recommended for: I highly recommend this workbook for parents and children to work through together over many weeks or even months. It’s ideal for a child who would like to feel less anxious and who is ready to learn some strategies for getting their anxiety more under control. This workbook is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and is a comprehensive collection of evidence-based practices for childhood anxiety. Therapists may also be interested in using this book in session with clients as a way of structuring their treatment or as between-session “homework” for children and their caregivers as a means of reinforcing in-session content.
Age range: Kindergarten through 2nd grade, maybe 3rd.
Recommended for: A child with a lot of safety-oriented worries who is at all interested in knights or medieval lore. This story destigmatizes anxiety (knights are inherently cool and brave, right?) and presents the value of exposure (i.e., doing things they care about even if they’re scary) and expectancy violations (i.e., bad outcomes happen, and they’re not nearly as bad as the knight expected). Different coping strategies are briefly shared by the knight’s classmates (also knights), which might give these techniques a bit of extra credibility! The knight is particularly anxious about participating in jousting practice in front of his classmates; this will likely resonate with children who experience significant anxiety in performance situations (e.g., sporting events, recitals, etc.).

Wemberly Worried

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade
Recommended for: A child with lots of worries will feel seen by this story and will likely feel reassured that despite their worries, they can still make friends and have fun. It’s ideal for children who have been criticized for worrying and/or who have started to criticize themselves for it and who need a reminder that this isn’t helpful or deserved. It’s also a great starter to a conversation between a child and their caregivers about what their caregivers can do to be helpful when the child is feeling worried (e.g., helping them to engage in something fun even if they’re worried!) instead of simply imploring the child not to worry.

Ruby Finds a Worry

Written and illustrated by Tom Percival
Age range: This book is short with simple language–preschoolers through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is great to read with children who seem to be carrying heavy feelings around with them and not sharing them. Kids with worries and/or mood symptoms would likely benefit from reading this book–the message that one can feel better by connecting with others and sharing one’s feelings is quite applicable to both depression symptoms as well as worries. For therapists, this book could be helpful as a read early in therapy with a child who isn’t sure talking about their feelings will help at all.

The Whatifs

Written by Emily Kilgore
Illustrated by Zoe Persico
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: Kids who are inclined to think that worst possible scenarios will happen may benefit from this book’s messages that our Whatifs (in this book, pictured as cute flying monsters) can be both “grim” (e.g., “What if my dog runs away) and hopeful (e.g., “What if there’s chocolate cake after our recital”), and that more hopeful Whatifs help us to feel better and often come true. The main character Cora is anxious about a piano recital; this book could also be great to read with children who get particularly anxious about performances.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: Best for children you suspect have lots of worries that are bringing them down (perhaps they’re also having tummy aches and nightmares) but who aren’t sharing their worries with anyone. Also great for a parent who needs a reminder that being a good listener when a child is sharing worries is invaluable (and that saying “Don’t worry!” isn’t helpful). This book leads well into an activity of a child drawing out their own worries.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: Great for a kid whose days are often ruined by worry. It’s cute and non-threatening, and has a relatable dinosaur protagonist. Worrysaurus promotes insight into the way that worry ruins days (by making bad outcomes seem more likely or real than they probably are), encourages the creation of a coping box of favorite items to help a child to feel better when they’re worried, and gently introduces the idea that focusing on the present is an antidote to worries about the future.

The Worry Box

Written by Suzanne Chiew
Illustrated by Sean Julian
Age range: Preschool through kindergarten.
Recommended for: This story teaches the worry management strategy of creating a worry box (i.e., writing down one’s worries and putting them in a box) through a sweet and reassuring story of a bear with a lot of worries who visits a waterfall with his older sister and makes a new friend. Worry boxes can help children build awareness of their worry thoughts. They can also help to contain worry time to certain designated moments (e.g., a therapy session, after school) when the child’s worries can be discussed with a trusted adult.

Hector’s Favorite Place

Written and illustrated by Jo Rooks
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure, Visualization
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: Introduces the concept of a Worry Monster to help children start to identify their worries and recognize that they probably aren’t the truth. Helps a child to start challenging their worries with self-affirmations and engagement in feared activities. The Worry Monster intervention is widely used by therapists to help children to address worries. Children who have some insight into their worries (and can put them into words) will likely benefit from reading this book.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness, Relaxation
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This is a fun, joyful celebration of Indian cooking that works well as an introduction to mindful eating and the potential anxiety-management benefits of the technique. Kalamata is anxious about a first day at a new school, but the book is relevant to any child feeling worried about something in the future who could benefit from some pleasurable, present-moment grounding.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: In child-friendly language, this book provides an explanation of anxiety and how it is often a false alarm, and it teaches children five mindfulness strategies to reconnect with their sense of safety and calm. This is a good fit for children who are often nervous and who have some insight into their thoughts and feelings. The strategies articulated in this book are applicable to older children and adults as well. Grown-ups with anxiety, you might like this book as much as your child (or perhaps more!).
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: For a child who gets stuck in worries about unknowns or unlikely bad outcomes, this book is a fun, silly way to start a conversation about what is “most likely” going to happen tomorrow and how delightful that can be.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book is perfect for a child who has been exposed to too much news or adult talk about war, pandemics, climate change, etc. and who is now worried that the future will inevitably be bleak and terrible. It reminds children in a super fun and quirky way that nothing is inevitable and that they can use their imagination to think up alternative ways the future could unfold.