It’s sad, but true - our children carry a lot of stress inside them. We live in a fast-paced world in which information, expectations, and experiences are all on overload. It takes proactive measures to keep our children’s mental health strong and vibrant. Some children will experience many more fears than others: sleeping in the dark, bad dreams, fears of bullying, for example, will be bigger challenges for some. But all children and teens harbor some fears and even though they may not verbalize them, it’s a good idea to address the issue of their fears, anxieties, and worries. Here are five books written by mental health professionals to help your children overcome their fears.
1. Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Donna B. Pincus, Ph.D. Dr. Pincus is the Director of the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Center at Boston University. In Growing Up Brave, she informs parents and kids about stresses and fears that are a normal part of growing up. She offers practical suggestions for stress-busting and teaches children how to recognize physical anxiety symptoms that may occur before the actual fears are experienced. She offers tips for children of all ages and ways parents can minimize their child’s stresses and fears, decreasing the likelihood of panic attacks, tantrums and the like.
2. When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live With Anxiety by Kari Dunn Buron. This is a children’s book aimed at kids who struggle with managing their behavior when they are under stressful conditions. The author is an autism resource specialist and has received a spot in the Illinois State University Education Department’s Hall of Fame for her work in development of a rating scale for children’s level of stress. In her system, the child gauges their own level of anxiety and worry and gives it a number, then learns relaxation techniques to cope with the problem.
3. My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael A. Tompkins, Katherine A. Martinez, and Michael Sloan. This is a practical book addressing the very real problems of teens with anxiety and panic attacks. It is based on Cognitive-behavioral Therapy techniques to recognize anxiety and its effects on both physical and mental health. It includes peer-to-peer stories and episodes of anxiety and ways to practically get the emotions under control. This book won the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists Self-help Seal of Merit Award.
4. What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried: A Guide for Kids by James J. Crist, Ph.D. James Crist is a licensed clinical psychologist and works for the Child and Family Counseling Center. His book for children in Grades 5 through 8 has won the iParenting Media award. Crist teaches 10 coping skills for children struggling with overwhelming fears and anxieties. Each comes with a case history and the text is illustrated to make it more user-friendly. Each of the 10 skills is helpful in empowering children to understand, confront and master troubling emotions.
5. The Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal With Anxiety & Worry by Lisa M. Schab, LCSW. 1 in 4 teens experiences mild to serious levels of fear, anxiety, and associated mental health problems. This workbook is an easy-to-follow text with short narratives to help a teen look inside themself to find answers to their particular fears and anxieties. The book details coping skills to face day-to-day challenges for teens.
You can best address your child’s fears by providing opportunities to talk about them. If you’re aware of certain specific fears your child has, by all means, find time and materials to open the doors of communication with your child. Often, for your child, just the chance to express their fears in a safe environment is enough to begin the task of overcoming them.
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find her at janpierce.net.
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