Our Favorite Children’s Books That Help Them Talk About Their Emotions and Mental Health
An overview of children’s mental health
Since May is mental health awareness month, we thought we’d take a look into children’s mental health!
Just like adults, children have big emotions - a fact that often gets overlooked. Adults sometimes seem to think that understanding and dealing with emotions might be too complicated for kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even children have to deal with mental health issues and should be given the right tools (like children's books) to deal with big, scary emotions healthily.
According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and 3.2% of children between the same ages have been diagnosed with depression. Moreover, mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders begin to develop very early in childhood - between the ages of 2-8. Further, about 1 in 6 children between those ages have been diagnosed with the same. That’s about 17% of young children. The stats are scary, but how can we be more prepared?
Why kids need tools to express themselves
Now that we have more research surrounding mental health, there is an increasing number of tools available to help kids (and adults) express themselves better and in a healthy way. Giving kids tools that help them express themselves well when they are young, will help them develop healthy ways to deal with emotions and mental health issues like anxiety or depression when they are older.
There are several ways to teach kids about emotions and how to deal with them, including:
- Talking with them, using pictures of emotions so they can identify with them to tell you how they feel
- Modeling good coping skills and other healthy ways to express themselves
- Using storybooks that do a good job of explaining complicated emotions
In particular, children's books are a great way to let kids know that what they might be feeling is normal. and that there are many healthy ways to deal with their feelings. Children’s books have characters and situations that they can relate to, and hence can be much more effective when compared to some other tools.
There are a lot of different books that you read with your child. Here are some of our favorites, and some lists of more books you can use!
10 children’s books about mental health
‘The way I feel’ takes your child through a range of situations and the appropriate positive and negative emotions that go along with those situations. At the end of the book, it emphasizes that all of our feelings are part of us and that we should accept them. The book has immersive illustrations and typography that will keep your child engaged.
2. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
This book by Dr. Seuss takes your child through different colors that are associated with different emotions and provide an easy way for a small child to figure out how to express what they’re feeling. Moreover, there’s also a day in the book that the narrator is mixed up, and doesn’t know exactly what they’re feeling! It’s good to let kids know that sometimes, it's normal not to know exactly how or what they feel, but that it’s temporary, and they’ll go back to being themselves.
The Grupopotamus follows the story of a Hooman child (your child!) and Anonymouse, as they try their best to un-grump the Grumpopotamus. The Grumpopotamus is a truly terribly grumpy fellow whose presence makes the rest of the Manimals grumpy and mean as well. The Grumpopotamus teaches children (and adults!) about many different aspects of the human condition. It’s a personalized book with a lot of heart and has great lessons about how to deal with being sad and being there for your friends. If you’re interested, here are six lessons that The Grumpopotamus can teach us.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is more appropriate for slightly older children. The book centers around the narrator, whose son and mother have died. The book deals with the complicated topics of death, grief, and depression. The book also offers some ways for children to deal with these issues and cope with them.
The Princess and The Fog is a story of a little princess who suffers from depression or a ‘fog’ that doesn’t seem to go away. She doesn’t feel like doing anything, and the fog makes it hard for her to focus on anything. But little by little, by talking about it. As a result, she starts to feel better and goes back to doing the things she loves. This book is great for helping kids understand depression, and offers helpful advice on how to deal with it.
The Worry Bug is a story about Wince, the worry monster who begins to think about all the things he needs to do - his homework and laundry. As he begins to think and worry about all his tasks, the worry bug shows up. Consequentially, the worry bug continues to grow as Wince continues to worry. The book tackles how to overcome being consumed with worry, and is extremely easy for kids to understand.
This book describes how a little girl, Sophie, feels when she gets really really angry. Further, the book relates to how kids feel when they don’t get what they want or cannot express how they feel. The book also goes through how Sophie deals with her anger, and what calms her down. Most importantly, it shows kids that the feeling doesn't last forever and that things will be okay again.
8. Perfectly Norman, Ravi’s Roar & Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival
Perfectly Norman, Ravi’s Roar, and Ruby’s Worry are part of Tom Percival’s ‘Big, Bright Feelings’ children's books. The book 'Perfectly Norman' is for any child that feels a little different and reassures them that there are others out there like them - and that you shouldn’t cover up your differences. Ravi’s Roar deals with anger, and how smaller kids can learn to stand up for themselves in a healthy way. Ruby’s Worry is similar to ‘The Worry Bug’, and teaches kids that talking about your worries usually makes them go away.
This is a great children's book to introduce kids to sadness and how to deal with it. More importantly, the book gives kids practical ways to understand why they’re feeling sad, and what they can physically do to feel better, or get rid of sadness - including just sitting with it for a while. It’s easy to read and understand, and it’s great for younger and slightly older kids too.
‘A Terrible Thing Happened’ is a children's book that can help kids deal with PTSD. In the book, a raccoon, Sherman Smith, sees a terrible thing. He doesn’t want to talk about it, so he stuffs it inside. As a result, Sherman starts to get anxious, angry, and depressed - until he talks to a grown-up, Ms. Maple, about it. The book also broaches the topic of therapy, and how it can help you feel better to talk through things with someone who understands.
If you’re looking for more children’s books about mental health, you can check out these awesome lists:
Complicated emotions and situations can be hard to navigate for kids - but if they’re given the right tools (like children's books) to deal with these feelings when they’re young, they’re more likely to develop into holistically healthy adults, and have good coping mechanisms in place as compared to harmful or unhelpful ones.