17 Books to Teach Your Child About Mental Health

Mental health is a complicated topic for adults sometimes–so how do we start educating our kids about it in a way that will really connect with them?

Luckily for us, kids are excellent learners–and they want to learn. Their brains are ready to absorb all of the new information they can. And storytelling is a great way to get kids engaged and excited about learning. It stimulates their imagination and helps them to develop creative thinking skills and empathy. So, if you’re looking for a place to start teaching your child about mental health, check out these children’s books!

Books to Teach Your Child about ADHD

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders. It varies in how it shows up in kids–and often girls and boys show different signs–but some of the symptoms include:

  • Self-focused behavior (often interrupting others, difficulty waiting their turn)
  • Difficulty keeping strong emotions in check; frequent tantrums
  • Inability to keep still, constant fidgeting
  • Difficulty finishing tasks, or jumping from one intensely focused activity to another
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Forgetfulness and constant daydreaming

If any of these sound like your child, they may be living with ADHD! It can be difficult finding the most effective parenting methods when raising a child with ADHD, but it can also be difficult living with it as a child when you don’t know why you’re compelled to behave in certain ways! These books can help explain what living with ADHD is like to your child:

Cory Stories: A Kid’s Book About Living With ADHD Written by Jeanne Kraus, illustrated by Whitney Martin

What it’s about: “In short statements and vignettes, Cory describes what it’s like to have ADHD: how it affects his relationships with friends and family, his school performance, and his overall functioning. He also describes many ways of coping with ADHD: medication, therapy/counseling, and practical tips for school, home, and friendships.”

I Can’t Sit Still! Living With ADHD Written by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso, illustrated by Marta Fabrega

What it’s about: “Here is the story of a child who has ADHD–attention-deficit disorder–and is mistakenly perceived as being unruly and incapable of following instructions. Ultimately, this little boy overcomes this problem with help from the family doctor, his parents, and his teacher.”

Books to Teach Your Child about Anger Management

Does your child struggle to manage their anger? Anger can be a scary or overwhelming emotion, and even many adults struggle to cope with it in a healthy way. For kids who are feeling big emotions for the first time, it can be especially difficult. But teaching them from a young age that anger isn’t an emotion to be feared or ignored, but just another one that offers us insight to ourselves, can set them up for a much healthier relationship to anger as they grow. Check out these books:

Mad, Mad Bear! by Kimberly Gee

What it’s about: “Bear had to leave the park early for his nap. Then he fell and got an owie on the way home. And then he had to leave his favorite boots and stick outside. Bear feels like nothing is fair, and that makes him VERY, VERY, VERY MAD! Can he find a way to move through his emotions and get back to feeling better? Maybe…but not before having a major meltdown!”

When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry…Written and illustrated by Molly Bang

What it’s about: “Everybody gets angry sometimes. For children, anger can be very upsetting. Parents, teachers, and children can talk about it. People do lots of different things when they get angry. In this Caldecott Honor book, kids will see what Sophie does when she gets angry. What do you do?”

Mouse Was Mad By Linda Urban and illustrated by Henry Cole

What it’s about: “Who knows the best way to be mad? Bear stomps. Hare hops. Bobcat screams. Mouse? He just can’t get it right. But when he finds the way that works for him–still and quiet–he discovers that his own way might be the best of all. Linda Urban’s story about self-expression and managing anger is both sweet and sly, and Henry Cole’s cast of animal friends is simply irresistible.”

Sometimes I’m Bombaloo By Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo

What it’s about: “Sometimes, Katie loses her temper. Sometimes she uses her feet and her fists instead of words. When Katie is this mad, she’s just not herself. Sometimes, she’s BOMBALOO. Being BOMBALOO is scary. But a little time-out and a lot of love calm BOMBALOO down and help Katie feel like Katie again!”

Books to Teach Your Child about Anxiety

Anxiety shows up in many ways in kids. This can look like:

  • Trouble sleeping: difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches or other aches
  • Frequent nausea
  • Withdrawal from friends or activities they enjoy
  • Expressing increased feelings of self consciousness
  • Clinging to parents/caregivers more

Here are five books to help teach your child about anxiety and how they can manage it:

Don’t Feed the WorryBug Written and illustrated by Andi Green

What it’s about: “Say hello to Wince, one of the biggest worriers you will ever meet. From cookies to homework to the weather, Wince worries about everything.  And when Wince starts to worry, his WorryBug appears. At first the WorryBug is small and non-threatening, but the more Wince Worries the more his WorryBug grows. Don’t Feed The WorryBug is great story to start the conversation on worry and anxiety. We all worry, it happens, but the key is to not let those worries aka the WorryBug grow to the point that it ruins your day. Soft bound book includes coloring pages and WorryBug note pages to help keep track of when the pesky WorryBug arrives.”

Hector’s Favorite Place Written and illustrated by Jo Rooks

What it’s about: “Hector loves his home so much that he doesn’t often go out, and it starts to affect his friendships. Soon Hector realizes that his worries are keeping him from enjoying himself, so he needs to learn to be brave and try new things. Can Hector find the courage to break out of his comfort zone? Included is a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals by Julia Martin Burch, PhD, that discusses helping children overcome their worries and break out of their comfort zones.”

How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear? By Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

What it’s about: “Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear’s help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all. Through this engaging and beautifully illustrated story, children will learn that everyday worries and fears can be overcome. It just takes a willingness to share with a helpful listener, and an understanding that making mistakes is how we learn. Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators, and extra hints to help children manage anxiety.”

Worries Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick

What it’s about: “It’s normal for toddlers to worry and feel anxious–they have enough experience with the world to know that things may go wrong. With warmth and empathy, this board book helps little ones understand what it means to worry and that “Everybody worries, even grown-ups. But worries are not forever. You can help your worries go away.” Through colorful illustrations and simple ideas, toddlers learn to talk to someone, get a hug, keep hands and bodies busy, think good thoughts, and more. Also includes tips for parents and caregivers.”

Listening to My Body By Gabi Garcia, illustrated by Ying Hui Tan

What it’s about: “This engaging and interactive book guides children through the practice of naming their feelings and the physical sensations that accompany them. From wiggly and squirmy to rested and still, Listening to My Body helps children develop a sensations vocabulary so that they can express what they are experiencing. Easy, kid-friendly mindfulness activities are woven throughout to reinforce the teachings.”

Books to Teach Your Child about Depression

Did you know that 2-3% of children ages six to twelve have serious depression? And when you’re looking at children with anxiety disorders (which is more than 7% of kids ages 3-17) are at additional risk?

These two books are all about what it’s like to live as a child with depression: what it might feel like, how it might show up, and how to manage it.

When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

What it’s about: “In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to get over it or indicates that it’s bad, both of which are anxiety-producing notions.”

The Princess and the Fog: A Story for Children with Depression by Lloyd Jones

What it’s about: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.”

Books to Teach Your Child about Grief & Loss

We never like to think that our kids will have to experience grief or loss. Losing loved ones at such a young age is so hard, but it does happen sometimes. And remember: little ones experience other types of loss as well! As we grow up, we are in a constant state of growing and changing, and that often is accompanied by loss. Help teach them to recognize and honor their grief when they feel it, so they don’t push it aside or ignore it.

I Miss You: A First Look at Death Written by Pat Thomas, illustrated by Lesley Harker

What it’s about: “When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. I Miss You helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Titles in the sensitively presented A First Look At series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them.”

The Invisible String Written by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

What it’s about: “This heartwarming picture book for all ages explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and opens up deeper conversations about love. Recommended and adopted by parenting blogs, bereavement support groups, hospice centers, foster care and social service agencies, military library services, church groups, and educators, The Invisible String offers a very simple approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, and delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times.”

One Wave at a Time: A Story About Grief and Healing Written by Holly Thompson, illustrated by Ashley Crowley

What it’s about: “After his father dies, Kai experiences all kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, fear, guilt. Sometimes they crash and mix together. Other times, there are no emotions at all–just flatness. As Kai and his family adjust to life without Dad, the waves still roll in. But with the help of friends and one another, they learn to cope–and, eventually, heal. A lyrical story about grieving for anyone encountering loss.”

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death Written and illustrated by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

What it’s about: “No one can really understand death, but to children, the passing away of a loved one can be especially perplexing and troublesome. This is true whether the loss is a family member, friend, or pet. Here to offer advice and reassurance are the wise dinosaurs from the bestselling Dino Tale series. This succinct and thorough guide helps dispel the mystery and negative connotations associated with death, providing answers to kids’ most-often asked questions.”

If you need help supporting your child, you’re not alone! Our clinicians can help you come up with a plan to deal with them that’s specific to your situation.