The hands of the clock demarcate the start and end of your work day—and who among us hasn’t looked to them for strength and comfort? But what if you couldn’t tell time and had to go through your day without any concrete indication that you’d eventually be reunited with your family (and your couch). Brutal. Anxiety thrives in that state of not-knowing, so it’s no wonder our little ones go to pieces at goodbye. You probably can’t teach your 2-year-old how to tell time, but regular ol’ reading sessions can offer a great deal of reassurance to a child with separation anxiety. Here are some of our favorites to help your kid acclimate in your absence.
7 Books That Help Kids with Separation Anxiety
1. the Worry Box By Suzanne Chiew
Murray the bear is invited to join his friends on an adventure to see the big waterfall, but he gets cold feet. When his big sister finds him full of worry, she shares her own secret for managing anxiety: the worry box. Big sis helps Murray make a special box of his own and encourages him to write down his negative thoughts and deposit them for safekeeping. (Definitely take advantage of the built in crafting opportunity, here.) On his trip to the big waterfall, Murray becomes his own cheerleader, encouraging himself with the words “worrying won’t stop me!” and helping his friends face their fears along the way, too. The Worry Box is a sweet story that empowers children to find comfort and strength in their friendships with peers, because sometimes all you need is a hug from a sibling or playmate.
2. meet Me At The Moon By Gianna Marino
Beautiful, vibrant illustrations bring the African scenery to life in this story of a mother elephant who teaches her baby how to feel her presence and love while she’s away. Mama has to take a short trip to “ask the sky for rain,” but Little One still hears her song on the wind and feels her love in the sunshine. Then, when it is time to be reunited, he walks to the horizon and meets her at the moon.
3. llama Llama Misses Mama By Anna Dewdney
This classic board book tells the story of beloved Llama Llama’s first day of school—and his struggle with separation anxiety unfolds with cute rhymes that even the youngest child can understand and enjoy. The book starts at the very beginning, with an emphasis on the comforting and familiar steps of a (hurried) morning routine. Later, when sadness strikes in the classroom, Llama Llama is able to shake it off as he gets swept up in all the fun and realizes the day has flown by (much like the pages of this short and sweet number). Best of all, this book concludes with a joyous answer to the question on every anxious kid’s mind—“Mama Llama you came back!”
4. maisy Goes To Preschool By Lucy Cousins
Another engaging book that tells a first day of school story, but this one is distinct in that it does not address the topic of separation anxiety at all. Instead, Maisy the mouse has a wholly positive experience after being dropped off at school in this straightforward and upbeat account of her day. If you don’t want your child to make mountains out of molehills, this one’s a great choice for minimizing the drama and reframing the conversation.
5. daniel Goes To School By Jason Fruchter
Fans of Daniel Tiger will find comfort in identifying with their favorite character as he navigates fretful feelings. This book about Daniel’s first day of school features a catchy jingle from the show (Grown-ups come back!) and you can encourage your child to sing this soothing mantra whenever she starts to fear the separation from you is interminable. Just don’t blame us when it gets stuck in your head too.
6. when I Miss You By Cornelia Maude Spelman
Authored by a therapist, When I Miss You combines charming illustrations and uncomplicated content to convey a surprisingly nuanced experience of missing someone (Spelman even covers the uncomfortable reality that you can miss someone and have fun at the same time). The secret to this unassuming storytime staple is in the simplistic language—just evocative enough, while still leaving room for the child to name and process their own feelings.
7. oh My Baby, Little One By Kathi Appelt
Touching and heartfelt, Oh My Baby, Little One artfully combines reassurance with reciprocity in a story of separation that is particularly well-suited for the daycare-aged crowd. Kathi Appelt flips the script and delivers a powerful message about the mutual love between parent and child and the mutual strain of separation—mamas also hate goodbyes. Working parents be warned, you might tear up a little when reading this to your babe, but your little one will be deeply comforted and inspired by seeing your vulnerability and resilience.