Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus tells us. “Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

But there’s no way around it. Many of us do worry about what lies ahead, and that includes children. Preschoolers have all sorts of natural (and sometimes irrational) fears, while older kids fret over their grades, their looks and problems at home.

Life changes add to these everyday worries. A death in the family, divorce, military deployment, illness, a mom or dad’s loss of a job — all these can stress out even the best-adjusted, most prayerful child.

A parent’s reading aloud of a favorite picture book can significantly reduce anxiety. The physical intimacy has a calming effect, while the book’s contents can set up a shared experience and provide a simple distraction from troubles. Here are some titles specifically geared to help wee worrywarts relax, cope and grow.


Written by Meryl Doney

Illustrated by Gaby Hansen

Pauline, 2008

32 pages, $12.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

The Very Worried Sparrow worries about everything. While the other birds look up at the bright blue sky and sing for joy, the Very Worried Sparrow hangs his head and shuts his beak. Will he have enough food? Will he learn to fly? Will he ever find a mate? One day, a dove tells the Very Worried Sparrow about God — who cares for all creation. The Very Worried Sparrow no longer fears, but places his faith in the God who forgets not even a little sparrow like himself. Ages 4 to 8.


Illustrated by Jude Daly

Eerdmans, 2006

24 pages, $16

Available in bookstores

The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 accompany illustrations set in a rural South African homestead. Readers are reminded that God has a plan (“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”). Just as children might be aware of changes in their personal or family lives, this reading says to expect such events. After all, there’s “a time to break down and a time to build up,” “a time to get and a time to lose,” and “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” What might be a big worry today could be a happy memory tomorrow. All ages.


Written and illustrated by Hans Wilhelm

Scholastic, 2007

24 pages, $3.99

Available in bookstores

Large watercolor illustrations and a retelling of Psalm 23 create an appealing picture book. Each page features a little lamb as he makes his way along perilous paths. Wolves lurk in the shadows, but the lamb continues confidently alongside the shepherd (“Your shepherd’s rod and staff make me safe”). The joy of the little lamb coupled with the encouraging words of the Psalm will reassure readers — especially those who are prone to bouts of anxiety. Ages 4 to 8.



Written by Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

Illustrated by Joan Waites

Pauline, 2007

128 pages, $7.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

Helena Kowalska, the third of 10 children, grew up in worrisome times in Poland. War, famine and poverty marked her childhood. Our Lord appeared to her as the Suffering Christ when she was 19 and called her to religious life. Before Helena received her habit and religious name, Jesus made known that she would suffer much for his love. Later, ill with tuberculosis and misunderstood by many sisters, Sister Faustina obediently followed whatever Jesus asked — including promoting devotion to Divine Mercy. “Jesus, I trust in you,” the inscription under the Divine Mercy image, epitomized how Faustina lived her life amidst worries, adversity and seemingly impossible tasks. John Paul II canonized her in 2000. Ages 9 to 14.



Written by Lisa Tucker McElroy

Illustrated by Diane Paterson

Albert Whitman & Company, 2005

32 pages, $16.99

Available in bookstores

When the military deploys parents overseas, families are left to worry. Colorful letters written and illustrated by Lizzie help her stay close to her mother, serving in the war. Lizzie reports on family life with Dad and her little brother, school, soccer and her yearning for her mom to return (“Can you ask if you can come home just for the game?”). Both Mom and Lizzie promise to keep safe (“Are you staying safe, Mommy? Please don’t forget to wear your helmet. I promise I’ll wear my bike helmet EVERY TIME if you wear your helmet, too — OK?”). “Tips From Lizzie and Her Mom on Handling the Separation,” included at the end, can help military families through a difficult time. Ages 4 to 8.


Written by James J. Crist, Ph.D.

Illustrated by Michael Chesworth

Free Spirit Publishing, 2004

128 pages, $9.99

Available in bookstores

This practical guide helps children identify, understand and manage their everyday worries. After naming kids’ common fears and their body’s response to them (fight, flight or freeze), the author offers 10 helpful strategies. These “Fear Chasers and Worry Erasers” can be tried at home or school. Part two focuses on bigger worries and fears requiring physician or counselor involvement (for example, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder). The author repeatedly urges young readers to talk with parents or other responsible grown-ups about their worries. Adults might find themselves benefiting from the coping strategies, especially in these times of economic uncertainty. Ages 9 to 12.


Written by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.

Illustrated by Bonnie Matthews

Magination Press, 2006

80 pages, $15.95

Available in bookstores

Give a tomato seed good soil, fresh water and warm sun, and it grows and grows. Give a worry constant attention — and it, too, grows. “And pretty soon, what might have started as just a little seed of worry has become a HUGE PILE OF PROBLEMS that you don’t know how to get rid of,” according to the author. This workbook coaches kids on how to nip those worry weeds in the bud. Putting a worry into words is the best place to start. From there, how-to steps can help kids master the skills needed to reduce anxiety — using logic against worries, getting physically active, and limiting worrying to a particular time. Worksheets with prompts for writing and drawing are included. Ages 8 to 12.

The Crawford sisters

write from Pittsburgh.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy