By Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D.
It is no accident that most children’s books and movies have villains. Vicarious scares allow kids to practice coping from a safe emotional distance. These books confront kids’ fears head-on without keeping them up at night with please-check-what’s-in-my-closet concerns.
Story and Picture Books:
Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed (1997) by Barbara Park.
Junie scares away an invisible under-bed monster using an ugly school picture of herself as a weapon.
A Not Scary Story About Big Scary Things (2010) by C.K. Williams.
A growling monster begs a brave boy to believe in him in this silly story.
On A Scary Scary Night (Can You See What I See?; 2008) by Walter Wick.
Search for objects in spooky scenes with your child to encourage conversation about scary subjects.
Wemberly Worried (2000), by Kevin Henkes.
Anxious kids will recognize themselves in Wemberly, a shy white mouse with lots of worries.
What Was I Scared Of? A Glow-in-the Dark Encounter (2009) by Dr. Seuss.
The narrator of this delightful classic is terrorized by an empty pair of pants that is equally scared of the narrator.
For ages 6-12:
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (2005) by Dawn Huebner.
This book educates and inspires kids to confront their anxieties with proven cognitive-behavioral techniques.
For ages 9-13:
What to Do When You’re Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids (2004) by James J. Crist.
Kids learn practical fear-chasing and worry-erasing strategies and find out when to seek expert help for more serious anxiety disorders.
Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD, is a personality psychologist and author of Detachment Parenting: 33 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Kids Melt Down.
For Your Information:
Read a fear-busting book together. What Was I Scared Of? A Glow-in-the Dark Encounter (2009) by Dr. Seuss.
Learn about phobias and how to handle them.
What to do if your child is afraid of the dark.
Learn about childhood anxiety disorders.