Tag Archives: separation anxiety

Books to soothe your anxious preschooler

Okay, I’ll admit it. My preschooler is a little anxious. She’s smart, incredibly perceptive, and funny, but she’s also a bit of a worrier. Sometimes, I think that she’s a little too observant of the world around her. The other day she said, “I’m going to miss you when I go to college.”

As she begins to encounter new experiences in environments such as preschool, the dentist, the doctor, play dates, and with babysitters, we’ve calmed some of her worries with two great authors. My four year old often asks for books in which the little kids are scared and then learn to feel better.

Author and illustrator Kevin Henkes and Vera Rosenberry have created entertaining, cleverly thought out, and sensitive books about anxious moments young children go through. Kevin Henkes beautifully captures his characters’ expressions in detailed illustrations, has a delightful cadence to his narrative, and often injects some subtle adult humor that your child might not notice. I love Vera Rosenberry’s illustrations of somewhat awkward looking kids and her tender way (but not overly sweet) of dealing with some difficult situations that both kids and adults encounter. Here are some of my favorite Kevin Henkes and Vera Rosenberry books. Be sure to check your local library for any of these titles. Also, your child’s school Scholastic sale probably includes the Kevin Henkes books.

Kevin Henkes (Caldecott and Newberry winner)

Chrysanthemum is a book about a little mouse who gets teased at school about her name: Chrysanthemum.With the help from a kind teacher, she eventually realizes that she isn’t that different after all and that sometimes being unique can feel absolutely special.

Owen addresses a young mouse who has to give up his prized blanket. The blanket is his closest friend, confidant, and comforter during “nail clippings and haircuts and trips to the dentist.” But when Owen heads off to school, his Mom figures out a way for Owen to still have a piece of his loving blanket with him. A great story about separation and developing independence.

“At home, Wemberly worried about the tree in the front yard, and the crack in the living room wall, and the noise the radiators made.” Wemberly Worried features a little mouse who worries all day and all night and of course, about starting school. Wemberly learns to make friends with another anxious mouse at school and how to worry a little less.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is a humorous book about a free-spirited young mouse named Lilly who adores her hipster teacher. Until one day, he takes away her distracting new purple purse, sunglasses, and shiny quarters and Lilly is outraged. The book addresses ways kids can deal with frustration and anger and also how they can apologize and move on.

Vera Rosenberry

We’ve read a lot of dentist books–it took my daughter four visits to the dentist before she successfully got her teeth cleaned.¬†Vera Goes to the Dentist is probably one of the best dentist anxiety books for preschoolers. (Note: it’s also important to read the nonfiction ones that show the dental tools, x-rays, and such.) The best, rather outlandish, part of this book is when Vera jumps down from the dentist chair and starts to run around the block with the dentist, hygienist, Mom, and sisters running after her. Now when I take my daughter to the dentist, we laughingly say, “Now, let’s not pull a Vera.”

Vera Runs Away portrays a typical busy family, one that doesn’t react as happily to Vera’s glowing report card as she had anticipated. In her mind, she thinks that everyone should stop what they are doing and celebrate her good grades. Frustrated, she runs away. They eventually find her, and Vera’s Mom says, “We’re so sorry we didn’t pay enough attention to your wonderful report card. But when you do well, you are doing well for yourself.” Pizza and togetherness ends this thoughtful story.

In Vera Rides a Bike, Vera sadly loses her tricycle at the park. After a few months, her parents give her a refurbished bicycle and Vera begins to learn how to ride it. One evening when everyone is too busy to help her practice riding, Vera ventures out on her own.¬†Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to break yet, and ends up falling off of her bike, but makes it safely home. This is another great story about the complex path of independence, courage, and reassurance that little kids travel each day.

Vera’s First Day of School starts off with Vera being very excited for her first day but then turns sour when Vera is a little overwhelmed by the big school. When she becomes preoccupied with a fuzzy caterpillar on the playground she misses the school bell and is late for school. Not knowing what to do, Vera goes home and hides. A little crying, Mom hugs, a welcoming teacher, and painting at her new desk, smooths things over and Vera “was where she was supposed to be–a big girl in school. She was not afraid anymore.”

Good read: Little Red Bird

“Have you ever heard of the little red bird who lived in a cage made of gold? She had all she could need–she had water and seed, and plenty to read I’ve been told.”

The rhythmic, colorful, and poignant story of the Little Red Bird, by Nick Bruel, asks kids about the differences between comfort and predictability versus freedom and the unknown. The little red bird (a pet bird) enjoys the ease and familiarity of her cage but then one day looks outside and glimpses the world beyond. Through an open window (and many, many great metered sentences–you English and music majors will have fun reading this book), the little red bird briefly ventures out to a park happily discovering flowers, trees, benches, and well, a part of the exciting world she has never seen before.

But when the sun starts to set, the little red bird remembers the comforts of her home. From the top of a tree, she sees her little gold cage inside her house.¬†“She thought she would stay, and live freely each day. Here in the park, ‘neath the sky. Then she thought she’d go back [home], where there was nothing she lacked. Though she’d never be able to fly.” The author, smartly ends the book with a question to the reader, “I wonder what YOU would do?”

The anxiety of leaving home or leaving the familiar applies to all our different phases of life and The Little Red Bird beautifully opens this topic for discussion with your child. This book is particularly good for kids dealing with separation anxiety or those who are on the quiet or cautious side in public settings. For these more observation based learners, the idea of venturing out into the freedom of new experiences often sounds more scary than inviting and this little red bird shows that “the new” can sometimes be fun.