8 books to help your children understand mental health

Talking to children about mental health can be a tricky. As parents we want to make sure we are getting it right, we don’t want to say the wrong thing or upset our children.

But talking to children about mental health from a young age can help them understand their emotions, become more resilient, reduce stigma about mental illness, and teach them how to look after themselves mentally as well as physically.

If you’re looking for a little bit of help, there are some fantastic (and informative) books out there that can help you. Here are some of my favourites.

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1. Little Meerkat’s Big Panic: A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm

I always tell the children that knowledge is power. If they know how their brain works they can start to understand why they feel the way they do sometimes. This playful full-colour storybook shows children aged 2-6 easy ways for them to calm their body and brain when feeling anxious. It also includes guidance for parents or professionals on the neuroscience behind the strategies, and how they can use the book to help children.

2. How are you feeling today?

Children have strong feeling and they can’t always handle them very well. Perfect for sharing, How Are You Feeling Today? is packed with fun, imaginative ways to help children understand and cope with a whole range of different emotions. This delightful book gives parents the tools they need to help their child deal with those feelings – without it all ending in tears!

3. The Huge Bag of Worries

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time – at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them? A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a spring board into important conversations with your child.

4. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

Sadness is part of the human condition that should never be dismissed. The “Sad Book” is a wonderfully illustrated book that explains sadness and depression to children. It also touches upon grief and loss and ways to cope. For children going through a difficult time or watching someone who is, the “Sad Book” helps put feelings into thoughts and thoughts into words.

5. The Princess and the Fog: A Story for Children with Depression

Once upon a time there was a Princess. She had everything a little girl could ever want, and she was happy. That is, until the fog came… The Princess and the Fog is picture book to help sufferers of depression aged 5-7 cope with their difficult feelings. It uses vibrant illustrations, a sense of humour and metaphor to create a relatable, enjoyable story that describes the symptoms of childhood depression while also providing hope that things can get better with a little help and support. The story is also a great starting point for explaining depression to all children, especially those who may have a parent or close family member with depression.

6. The Truth Pixie

‘The Truth Pixie’ is a short rhyming story about accepting yourself and understanding the bad things that happen don’t define you forever.

7. Looking After Your Mental Health

We talk about our physical health – but not so much about how we’re feeling. With lots of practical advice, this lively, accessible guide explains why we have emotions, and what can influence them. Covering everything from friendships, social media and bullying to divorce, depression and eating disorders, this is an essential book for young people.

8. The Way I Feel

Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful, and expressive images which go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion. Your child will learn useful words, and you will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in her/his life. Recommended by parents, teachers and mental health professionals, The Way I Feel is a valuable addition to anyone’s library. 

You may also like – 7 confidence building books for children.

If you’re worried that your child is mentally unwell, there are a number of resources to help you help them. You can speak with your GP about what you’ve noticed, talk to a psychologist or visit Mental Health FoundationMindYoung Minds or Place2Be.

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