A few weeks ago, we talked about helping your kids understand and manage their anger. But anger isn’t the only big emotion kids need help with sometimes!
Learning to navigate their own complex feelings, new friendships and relationships, and discovering themselves all at the same time can be overwhelming. And often, because it is such a complicated subject, mental health goes undiscussed with kids.
Whether it’s because the topic seems too “grown up” to talk about with them, or because we simply don’t know where to start, there is the need for some sort of roadmap to help us communicate the importance of mental health with our kids.
One great way to start the necessary conversations is through storytelling! Children love stories, and engaging with complex issues in a fun and accessible way is a great way to teach them important lessons, without making it feel like they’re being taught. To help with this, we’ve put together a list of books to add to your rotation of stories with your child.
BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT UNPLEASANT EMOTIONS:
Woken by a well meaning group of animals seeking shelter in his cave, the very cranky bear roars at them that he is trying to sleep. In their many attempts to cheer him up, the other animals can’t understand why he is so cranky. Only when they are able to change their thinking to see things through Bear’s perspective, are the animals able to help him with his mood.
“Monsters have all kinds of feelings!” This book is about teaching kids to recognize what their different feelings are. Without shame or judgment, Glad Monster, Sad Monster, explores all types of different emotions, and how we see them show up in our own lives.
This book is all about finding things that make you happy when you’re feeling down! Taking a Bath With a Dog helps kids to understand that even when they are stuck in a funk, we can still find love & joy in our ordinary lives.
This book is about a mouse who can’t seem to figure out how to express their anger. Mouse observes other animals (“Bear stomps. Hare hops. Bobcat screams.”) but just can’t seem to express anger in the same way. Mouse was Mad teaches kids that understanding and expressing your emotions doesn’t look the same for everybody–and that it’s better to find the ways that work for you instead of trying to copy someone else.
Using colors and animals, Dr. Seuss in My Many Colored Days, takes kids through the broad spectrum of feelings and experiences that we all go through in our day to day lives, and is a great tool for parents to use when talking to kids about their feelings.
BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT DEPRESSION & ANXIETY:
Stress and anxiety levels are increasing in young children. When My Worries Get Too Big is a wonderful exploration of what to do when anxiety makes you feel like you can’t accomplish anything.
“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 a great story & guide for young children with depression. It helps to explain to them what’s happening, and give them ideas for support & coping mechanisms.
If you have an anxious child, Don’t Feed the Worry Bug is a must read! The main character, Wince, worries about everything, and when he does, his WorryBug gets bigger and bigger. Don’t feed the Worry Bug is a story about learning to cope with anxiety, without feeding it or letting it spiral out of control.
When Sadness is At Your Door helps teach kids that sadness is not a feeling to be feared or ashamed of, but instead it is an emotion we should treat as a guest–something temporary we can learn from. This book can help demystify sadness for your child by giving it a name.
BOOK FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT SELF ESTEEM:
Chrysanthemum is named after a flower, and she loves her name! That is, until she starts school and the other classmates start to tease her about it. Chrysanthemum teaches readers about how to deal with bullying, and the importance of self love & self esteem.
BOOK FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT MIND-BODY CONNECTION:
Bodily sensations or expressions of emotions are tough to understand, even for many adults! Listening to My Body helps to teach kids how to recognize what is happening in their mind and how that relates to what is happening in their body.
BOOK FOR TEACHING KDIS ABOUT DEALING WITH TRAUMA:
Our main character, Sheriman, witnessed a horrible thing. He tries to forget about it, but soon it starts affecting his everyday life. From feeling nervous, to getting stomach aches, to feeling angry, to having bad dreams, the terrible thing keeps showing up in Sheriman’s life. A Terrible Thing Happened teaches readers that finding support and talking through trauma can help you heal.
BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT BOUNDARIES:
In You Should, You Should, Hippo’s friends tell him all the things he “should” do. But Hippo doesn’t want to do any of them–he wants to decide what is right for himself. You Should, You Should is a story about dealing with peer pressure and learning to establish boundaries.
This book deals with setting boundaries over one’s body–a conversation that can seem difficult for many parents to navigate. Using child-friendly language, I Said No helps to teach kids about recognizing red flags and where to go for help when your boundaries are violated.