Undivided: How to Help Kids with Disabilities Manage Fear and Anxiety

Dr. Matt Biel on How to Help Our Kids Manage Their Fears and Worries

Jan. 24, 2021Updated Dec. 12, 2022

We thoroughly enjoyed our live chat with Dr. Matthew Biel, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center. Our takeaway? Among the many suggestions and insights Dr. Matt shared with us was a reminder to keep our sights on the micro and focus on “winning the hour” instead of the day. But when it comes to the macro, perhaps the most helpful — and easiest to follow — piece of advice is to remember that what our kids need most from us right now is love.

If you missed the live event, you can watch it here!

Below, we’ve included some of the highlights from Dr. Matt’s talk, as well as a list of resources to help our kids manage their fears and worries about the coronavirus. (These resources were compiled at the start of the pandemic, but the advice is helpful during any time of stress and anxiety!) From books and articles to websites and apps, we hope these little discoveries will be helpful to you as you continue to navigate the constantly changing environment we’re in.

"Resilience, more than almost anything else that we might consider a characteristic, is earned — it’s earned through trials and tribulations, it’s earned through hardship, it’s earned through creative and durable response to adversity. From what I know about the Undivided community, this is a group that is rich in resilience — because raising a kid with durable challenges creates a durable hardiness in families."

What are the things to keep in mind when talking to kids about things that are difficult or adverse?

  • Know your child. Every kid has their own personality, their own temperament, ways they react to new and unexpected things.
  • Where is your child developmentally? The way you might talk to a 7-year-old who has autism versus a 7-year-old who has OCD versus a 7-year-old who’s got an intellectual disability are all different conversations.
  • Take your child’s lead. There’s a tendency adults have when we’re anxious about something to overshare rather than taking a moment to pause and say, What does my child need to know in order to make sense of that for him or herself?

"I know what is on everyone’s mind: How do I possibly function as a home teacher, an instructor, a special ed teacher, a co-speech therapist or co-behavioral therapist or co-OT? I want to encourage folks to be compassionate with yourself, compassionate with your child, and modest in your ambitions as you think about what is possible to achieve each day. Be really concrete and specific. What’s a 15- or 20-minute chunk of learning, interaction, or challenge that you want to focus your attention on tomorrow? Let’s win that hour. If you win that hour, you win the day. Whatever happens beyond that is gravy."


  • A Boy and a Bear: The Children's Relaxation Book, by Lori Lite

    With a little imagination, kids can help calm their worries. This story shows them just how to do that. For children aged 3–10.

  • David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety, by Anne Marie Guanci

    Learn how to conquer fears in this story about David, a little boy who worries a lot. For children aged 4–9.

  • Helping Your Anxious Child, by Ronald Rapee, Ann Wignall, Susan Spence, Heidi Lyneham and Vanessa Cobham

    A guide for parents, Helping Your Anxious Child teaches parents cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help their children overcome anxiety, fears, and worries.

  • Mindfulness For Kids Who Worry, by Katie Austin

    Aimed at ages 6–9, but with tools that can be useful at any age, this book is full of beautiful illustrations and mindfulness exercises for children.

  • Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes

    A little mouse worries about everything from spilling to shrinking while taking a bath. Things start to look up when she finds a friend who worries just as much as she does. For children aged 4–8.

  • What To Do When You Worry Too Much, by Dr. Dawn Heubner

    By psychologist Dawn Huebner, this book is intended for children aged 6–12 to read with their parents; it uses metaphors and humorous illustrations to teach techniques used in cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat generalized anxiety.

  • Worry, Worry, Go Away! A Kid's Book about Worry and Anxiety, by Christine Adams

    This book uses elves to help kids learn how to beat anxious feelings. For preschoolers through 3rd grade. (Note: contains Christian overtones.)


  • EdSurge, ‘Let Yourself Off the Hook’: Advice for Teachers and Parents During COVID-19, 3.24.20

    EdSurge interviews Christine Elgersma, a senior editor of social media and learning resources at the nonprofit Common Sense Media, who offers some actionable advice for teachers and parents looking to better support their children and themselves. Among other points, she says that human connection is more critical than instructional time right now, and that educators and parents should let themselves off the hook a little bit, since these are unprecedented times and no one can be expected to handle it perfectly. This link has a full transcript of the talk.

  • Spawned Parenting Podcast, Helping teens who are struggling with social distancing, isolation and loss | Ep 194, 3.22.20

    Art psychotherapist and licensed counselor Tina Montagna-Tate, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, has over 20 years of experience working with tweens, teens, and families, and shares her expertise in this episode of Spawned on how to help tweens and teens through this difficult time.

  • Spawned Parenting Podcast, Special Coronavirus Episode: How to talk to our kids and teens, with Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg | Ep 193, 3.12.20

    In this episode, the moms of Cool Mom Picks interview Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician and adolescent expert from The Center for Parent and Teen Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This podcast has helpful advice on how to talk to our kids about the crisis with compassion, and the website is full of helpful links and resources.

  • Tilt Parenting, Thoughts on Parenting Differently Wired Kids Through a Pandemic, 3.23.20

    Special short episode in which Tilt Parenting host Debbie Reber shares thoughts and ideas for contemplation surrounding parenting differently wired children through the coronavirus pandemic. This link provides a full transcript of the talk.

  • Tumble Science Podcast for Kids, Answering Kids’ Coronavirus Questions

    While Tumble writes on their website that some of the details discussed in their first podcast for kids about the coronavirus have since,been updated as more information has become available, this is still an excellent source for kids to understand the virus. A follow-up podcast discusses where viruses come from. Both episodes are available in Spanish.



  • COVID-19 Resources for Children with Special Health Care Needs, In-Home Virtual Care for Children with Complex Conditions During Social Distancing

    Experts from four care programs around the country have recorded discussions about how they are “providing tele-health services for children with medical complexity during the COVID-19 outbreak.” The programs represented are Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, University of Texas in Houston, Children's National in Washington, DC, and Baystate Hospital in Massachusetts.

  • Dr. Ross Greene, “Collaboration in Trying Times,” 3.27.20

    Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, hosted a live call-in show on March 27 on collaboration and parenting your challenging child during trying times; you can now listen to the archived conversation on Blog Talk Radio at the above link.

  • Hand in Hand Parenting

    Hand in Hand Parenting is offering free support tools including 2 e-books and a free support call.

  • Seth Perler and Debbie Reber, “Debbie Reber & Seth Perler Parent Guidance during this difficult time,” 3.24.20

    This is an archived webinar from Executive Functioning Coach Seth Perler, who is being interviewed by Debbie Reber from Tilt Parenting.


  • Common Sense Media, Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic

    This is a resource page with links to many articles from Common Sense Media on the coronavirus. Topics include Understanding COVID-19 news coverage, how to stay calm for yourself and your kids, learning at home, and homework help.

  • Do Yoga With Me

    Do Yoga With Me contains hundreds of online guided yoga classes; they are currently offering 2 months of classes for free. Info on their coronavirus offer here.

  • GoZen Kids: Anxiety

    GoZen offers a program designed to help kids overcome anxiety using proven psychological research and therapeutic techniques. Their website explains it this way: “The program is broken down into six modules that teach your child how to understand, control, and manage their anxiety. The concepts are delivered over with 34 animations featuring fun, relatable characters in real-life situations.” The app is $197/year. (Insider tip: you can find many of their helpful videos for free on YouTube.)

  • Isle Of Calm: Stream 6 Hours Of Soothing Music

    Six hours of free music created in March to reduce anxiety, curated by NPR.

  • SARTAC: Self Advocacy and Beyond, Plain Language Information on Coronavirus

    This short booklet was created by and for people with disabilities, and explains the coronavirus in plain language, focusing on “need to know” and not “nice to know” information.


  • Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Zen of Moon Jellies

    Calm yourself with the relaxing live video of jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

    This app is intended for young children to help them learn self-control, problem-solving, and task persistence. To help an upset Sesame Street monster learn to calm down, children practice different techniques such as breathing exercises, popping bubbles, and making a plan. Free.

  • The Breathing Butterfly

    This app contains six beautifully designed “games” that help promote relaxation and calm. The games include activities such as building a garden, reaching a rainbow, and inhabiting a cherry blossom snowglobe. Free.

  • Calm

    Calm contains hundreds of excellent guided meditations in varying lengths, with an entire section devoted to children. The app also offers music and bedtime stories. It’s free, but to access the complete catalogue, the cost is $69.99 per year.

  • Headspace

    Like Calm, Headspace contains guided meditations and music in varying lengths for the whole family. The Kids section features five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up. The app is free, but to access the complete catalogue, it’s $69.99 per year. During the pandemic, they are offering free subscriptions to educators and healthcare professionals and a catalogue of meditations for businesses. Their COVID-19 page has a few sample meditations for free to aid in reducing anxiety.

  • Insight Timer

    This app contains 32,000 free guided meditations, and their section for kids includes topics on finding peace, falling asleep, “overcoming monkey mind,” and calming anxiety. Free.

  • Mindful Powers

    This app introduces children to mindfulness through a series of voice-guided stories with the help of a playful monster named Flibbertigibbet. Flibbertigibbet is agitated and needs help calming down; by soothing him, the child is led to learn techniques to help them gain inner calm. Free.

  • Super Stretch Yoga

    This app teaches kids 12 different animal-inspired yoga poses via an animated superhero named Super Stretch. Kids can watch videos of children doing each pose and an explanation of how to do it; they can also choose a particular pose or do them in order. Reminders to breathe are given throughout. Free.











Join the Undivided Community to get more resources like this in your inbox

Promise Image
Each piece of content has been rigorously researched, edited, and vetted to bring you the latest and most up-to-date information. Learn more about our content and research process here.
A Navigator is your Partner at each turn
Every Undivided Navigator has years of experience supporting families raising kids with disabilities or parenting their own. Partner with an Undivided Navigator for a free Kickstart to learn first hand what support feels like!
Expert-driven content, guidance, and solutions.
Member events and office hours with real answers, plus access to our private parents' group.
Priority to begin a free Kickstart of the Undivided Support System with a dedicated Navigator.
“It’s so helpful to have one place that you can go to get many answers.”–Leeza Woodbury, with Navigator Kelly since 2020
*Currently offering Navigator Kickstarts to residents of California