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Pre-K

Growing Reader

15 Comforting Picture Books for Kids With Separation Anxiety

by Rosemary D'Urso

books-for-separation-anxiety
Photo credit: SDI Productions, E+ Collection/Getty Images

Separation anxiety is common for many children, but after spending even more time together than usual over the last year, the idea of being away from family is more worrisome than ever. Luckily, there are several books with reassuring stories to comfort and embolden children to bravely take that leap into independence.

Whether preparing for daycare, the first day of school, or any transition, the books listed below are perfect for supporting children with their social-emotional needs and giving them the confidence to take on new challenges.

  • Owl Babies

    by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson

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    When three small owlets wake to find their mother gone from the nest, they grow concerned by her disappearance. Their anxiety is short-lived, however, as their mother returns with a feast for her little ones. With its reassuring message that parents always come back skillfully paired with striking life-like illustrations, this is an excellent choice for reading together while cuddling with a little one.

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  • Wherever You’ll Be

    by Ariella Prince Guttman; illustrated by Geneviève Godbout

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    As a working mom says good-bye to her daughter for the day, she reminds her that she will always be in her thoughts, even though they may not be physically together. The softly muted illustrations that follow the pair throughout their day create a soothing tone while the uplifting rhymes reassure readers that parent and child will be reconnected at the end of the day.

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  • What Does Little Crocodile Say?

    by Eva Montanari

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    Little Crocodile’s day is full of noise. He wakes to the “ring-ring” of the alarm clock and travels in the car with a “vroom vroom,” but when he enters preschool for the first time, “Wwwwah!” is all he can muster. Luckily, the kind teacher introduces him to musical instruments, stories, and new friends that help him adapt to his new school setting. Filled with lively onomatopoeia, this story is as fun to read aloud as it is to listen to.

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  • Hand to Hold

    by JJ Heller, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen

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    This lyrical love letter from a parent to child is full of tender wishes, most notably that the child will know they will always be loved. Based upon the heartwarming lullaby “Hand to Hold,” which reinforces the unconditional love parents feel for their children, this gorgeous book is sure to strike a chord with both children and adults.

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  • The Worry Box

    by Suzanne Chiew, illustrated by Sean Julian

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    This gentle tale introduces children to a helpful tool to aid them in conquering feelings of unease. While siblings Molly and Murray prepare to visit a waterfall, Molly notices that her brother seems fretful. When he admits that he is scared of the loud noise the waterfall will make, she introduces him to a worry box. Writing down his concerns and placing them in the box helps relieve Murray of his worries and allows him to control his fears.

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  • First Day Jitters

    by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

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    Nervous about her first day of school, Sarah Jane Hartwell refuses to get out of bed. After she begrudgingly makes her way to her classroom, readers are surprised to learn that she's the teacher! This amusing tale is not only a fun read-aloud but assures children that even teachers can be nervous on their first day!

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  • Llama Llama Misses Mama

    by Anna Dewdney

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    Upbeat rhymes and charming illustrations set a cheerful tone sure to bolster children preparing for their first day of school in this heartening installment of the New York Times bestselling series. While little Llama is initially apprehensive about starting preschool, once he realizes that his mother returns at the end of each day, he happily joins in the classroom fun. A great book for kids who struggle with separation anxiety at daycare or school drop-off.

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  • I Love You With All My Heart

    by Jane Chapman, illustrated by Jane Chapman

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    This sweet story reinforces the absolute love felt between parents and children, assuring children that they will always be loved forever by their parents, despite mistakes made or the distance between them.

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  • First Day Critter Jitters

    by Jory John, illustrated by Liz Climo

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    This delightful story follows a group of adorable animals who share their unease about starting school for the first time. From a kangaroo anxious about leaving his mother’s pouch to an energetic bunny worried about sitting still, many of the common fears presented will resonate with children. My own kids loved giggling their way through this comical and comforting story!

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  • I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!

    by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young, illustrated by Nneka Myers

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    When Ayaan’s mother notices he looks upset one morning, her young son confesses that sometimes he doesn’t feel very smart. Ayaan’s mother encourages him to say affirmations that give him the self-assurance to face the day with conviction. After witnessing how positive self-talk helped Ayaan change his perspective, families may feel inspired to create their own affirmations.

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  • The Circles All Around Us

    by Brad Montague, illustrated by Brad Montague and Kristi Montague

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    While the world outside our immediate family may seem like a scary place, if we expand our own personal circle to include new friends, teachers, etc., we can build an incredible community. With its gentle rhymes and soft color palette, this standout story encourages children to embrace the larger world with kindness.

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  • Mr. Worry

    by Roger Hargreaves

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    Perfect for little hands, children will love reading this amusing book starring Mr. Worry! As his name implies, Mr. Worry frets over everything. When a kind wizard encourages him to make a list of his concerns, he magically feels lighter until he begins agonizing that he has nothing to worry about!

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  • The End is Just the Beginning

    by Mike Bender, illustrated by Diana Mayo

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    So much of life is about perception, and this brilliant book teaches children to look at endings in a whole new way. Readers are shown through relatable examples how moments that appear final are actually the beginning of something new. With its clever and thought-provoking text, this profound book is perfect for teaching children that while change may be scary, it can also bring unexpected happiness.

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  • Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave

    by Jessica Hische

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    Gorgeous affirming hand-lettered words fill the pages of this moving book that encourages children to be their best selves. While readers are emboldened to be adventurous, creative, and confident, they are also reassured that it is okay to be scared and make mistakes. This encouraging book is an excellent choice for bolstering children to take that first step into a new school alone.

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  • My Little Brave Girl

    by Hilary Duff, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

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    This enchanting story provides sage advice from a mother to her daughter, empowering the child to approach new challenges with confidence. Rich illustrations add to the tender tone of the book, making this one that will be revisited often throughout the years.

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