Mind Spirit

Books to Comfort Anxious Children: Thankful

November 15, 2017
Anxious Children Holidays

Comforting Anxious Children’s Soothing Story Selection 2

By Janis D. Gioia, MAEd.

Anxious children and the holidays.

Not always a good combination.

The holiday season makes many children more anxious and stressed than festive and blessed.

For many children, especially those with anxiety, autism spectrum or sensory processing disorders, holiday stress and anxiety begins around Halloween and reaches epic proportions from Thanksgiving until the new year.

Reading Soothing Stories is one simple way to calm your child.

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, and illustrated by Archie Preston, comforts children with its gentle rhyming verse and whimsical artwork.

The adorable characters, a brother and sister, consider the things for which everyday people might express gratitude:

“The poet is thankful for words that rhyme.  The children for morning story time. The doctor is thankful when patients get well.  The traveler, for a cozy hotel.”

Author Eileen Spinelli shared, “I wrote the book as a reminder to children (and adults) and to myself as well…that sometimes the simplest blessings are the best.

“I also like the idea of an entire community (waitress, gardener, doctor, dancer) living together in a spirit of gratitude…being grateful for one another.”

This spirit of gratitude, experts say, is key to reducing anxiety, depression and improving sleep.  Studies, including one done at the University of Pennsylvania, find correlation between gratitude and feeling positive and optimistic.

Current research offers evidence that being grateful often results in feelings of well-being.

But children don’t need research studies, they just need to practice gratitude!

Eileen Spinelli’s book is the perfect way to introduce your child or your students to the simple act of being thankful.

Beautiful in its simplicity, Thankful encourages children and adults to look beyond material things and find gratitude for the little things that add joy and meaning to life.

This book might inspire your child to begin a practice of gratitude that continues long after the holidays are over.

After reading the story your child or students may want to:

Keep a Thankful journal:

With words or pictures…recording the simple things that make them happy, just like the brother and sister in Thankful.

Write or draw a Thankful note:

To someone who has made a difference in their lives.  Maybe to their doctor, a special teacher, a beloved relative or caregiver.  A classroom might want to send them to community helpers like fire fighters or police officers or to a military post or to a veteran.

(One year my students and I wrote a letter thanking a Marine on a military base in the middle east.  It was the start of a long distance friendship that blessed the Marine, my students and me.)

If your child or students could deliver the note in person and see the joy the thank you note brings to the receiver, that makes it even more special!

Make a Thankful jar:

A gentle visual reminder of “thankful things” helps children (and adults) cultivate joy, foster connectedness, build resilience and decrease anxiety.

Your child can decorate a mason jar with glitter glue and ribbons, stickers, or their crafting items of choice.

(My kids always loved using those colorful foam shapes with adhesive backing.)

Keep paper, a pencil and crayons handy so children can write or draw their thankful things and put them in the jar.

Encourage them to watch the jar fill with blessings.  Remind the children to look through the jar on days when they are feeling anxious, sad or negative.

Wishing you and your child (or students) a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.

For more tips to comfort anxious children this holiday season, check out “5 Ways to Help An Anxious Child Feel Comfort and Joy this Holiday Season.

Blessings and Peace,






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  • Reply Diana November 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Jan,
    I am a teacher in an urban district. I love your book recommendation and the idea for a Thankful jar! I am going to put a coffee can on my desk, have students write their names on a foam shape to decorate and ask students to contribute their thoughts whenever they choose. Every Monday, I will share a few to begin our week on a positive note! Thank you for creating this beautiful site to help me support my students’ social-emotional needs!

    • Reply Jan Gioia November 19, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Diana,
      Thank you so much for the kind words about Comforting Anxious children. I’m sure the Thankful jar will be a great way to start your week on a positive note. I’m so glad Comforting Anxious Children helps you to meet your student’s social and emotional needs. Blessings, Jan

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