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Books to help kids process separation Anxiety & Parting Grief
[Image Descriptions: Cover of The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper & Nancy M. Leak.]
Whether transitioning to a big-kid bed, sharing attention with a new baby, saying goodbye every morning, or grieving the pain of being apart from someone we love, these are the most effective books I’ve found to help my Little Earthquakes get through separation grief and anxiety.
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Universally Helpful For Separation from Loved Ones
I didn’t actually think this would work, but after some separation anxiety at bedtime because of a lot of big changes, Q found The Kissing Hand extremely reassuring after just one read when he was two-and-a-half.
I’ve been able to use it to solve many issues since we read it. It’s also adorable to see him play it out in real life.
I switched the words around a bit so it was less about ‘school’ and more about just when someone he loves has to be in a different place for a while. Q made his baby brother give him a ‘kissing hand’ and held it up to his cheek while saying “Baby brother loves me!”
And I just DIE. Right there on the floor. DEAD from cute.
It came in helpful later, when Q left for preschool, and again when he boarded the big-kid bus for kindergarten.
Since they’ve been side-by-side in everything for as long as my youngest can remember, it also came in handy when it was time for R2, my youngest, to say goodbye as his big brother. The original story is about a little raccoon being nervous to head to school without his mother. In our ‘revised’ version, it was perfect for a 3yo getting ready to head to preschool while his brother left for Kindergarten. Versatile!
This one might be too abstract in concept for more literal kids, but it works if you take the time to discuss who and what max and the moon could represent. Max searches everywhere for the moon to say goodnight, only to realize it’s always there even when he can’t see it.
This rather didactic (bland, but fine) book spells out methods to cope clearly for very young kids.
‘When I Miss You’ validates feelings of separation anxiety for school drop-off (as well as sitters and when parents have to leave for work. It’s a cute, simple board book for toddlers ages 3 and under, and includes ideas for how to cope with separation anxiety, such as drawing a picture to give to parents when they come back. It’s vague enough that you can read it to kids who aren’t already expressing separation anxiety without inspiring new fears.
Best for parents going back to work, extended time away from friends and family, and comforting kids nervous about death.
The Invisible String briefly mentions death of an uncle and references heaven – but it’s mostly about staying connected to the ones we love.
This workbook is just lovely. The text is advanced, so it’s probably best for kids ages 5.5+. I’m particularly happy that it’s inclusive for many family constellations, including same-sex parents, grandparents, and foster families. The illustrator normalizse disability, hijabs, and racial diversity, too.
For parents going back to work
The book My Mom Travels a Lot falls into a similar trap, showing dad as incompetent at basic things like finding boots. As if there is something inherent to femininity that lends us to domesticity (barf.)
You might also like: All The Single Mamas – Triumphant Stories Appreciating Single Mothers
When Kids Are With Babysitters, Nannies, And Grandparents
There’s an I Want My Daddy version too, but it’s not about separation anxiety, just about how much fun a kid and dad have together.
You might also like: Raising Feminist Fathers – Books Featuring Loving Dads
When Kids Miss Siblings
I’m still searching for books that help divided siblings in foster care and blended families in different locations who miss siblings. Someone – please write these.
You might also like: Love Is Love Is Love – Stories With Diverse Family Constellations
When Kids Miss Grandparents
For Older Kids & Extended Trips Away
Antidotes To Fear – Getting Kids Excited For Adventure
These ones aren’t about hesitancy, but about jumping forward and the romance of moving forward through daring adventure. They also make decent graduation gift if you’re into giving kind of person who likes to give kids books to almost-adults who will never read them.
- Wherever You Go – Good alternative to The Places You’ll Go, if you’re looking for a less problematic author than Dr. Seuss.
- Great Big Things – This is lovely, but the Earthquakes weren’t willing to sit through this. Between the lack of active sentences and the dark illustrations, it seems like it’s written for adults.
Stay Curious, Stand Courageous & Let Go (for now)