In today’s world, anxiety and depression, not to mention stress and worry, are widespread. In fact, according to a report by the Mental Health Foundation in 2015, 1 in 4 adults will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetime and currently in the UK today, at least 10% of young children aged 5-16 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
For children in particular, navigating their feelings can often be a confusing and upsetting process and as parents it can be difficult to know how to get a child to open up about how they’re feeling. So, to help them to better understand their emotions and anxieties, we’ve put together a list of some of the best books to read with your child, to help them through that difficult time.
The Red Tree, Shaun Tan
What’s it about? ‘Sometimes you wake up with nothing to look forward to…’- A little girl wakes up to find dead leaves falling on her as she sleeps. A paper boat sails off with her in it. A tree sprouts out of nowhere. Surreal but stunning, this book uses imaginary landscapes and powerful imagery to track one lonely little red headed girl and her experience with depression. As masterful as it is poignant, Shaun Tan’s beautifully evocative illustrations express a multitude of feelings and emotions that children might otherwise find hard to express. This book carries a powerful and hopeful message- even though bad things and feelings are inevitable, there is always, always hope.
Age range: 4-11
Don’t Panic, Annika!, Juliet Clare Bell & Jennifer Morris
What’s it about? It’s all going wrong! At least that’s what Annika thinks. She panics when she drops her things in the fishpond. She panics when she can’t find her favourite toy. She even panics when she can’t sort out the zip on her coat! But when she becomes trapped in the house all by herself, can she use the breathing techniques, tips and tricks that Mummy, Daddy and her brother showed her to keep calm. Will Annika prevail or will it be panic stations? This a fantastic book to teach kids how to keep their cool under stressful situations and to help kids take control of managing their emotions
Age range: 3-7
Wemberly Worried, Kevin Henkes
What’s it about? Wemberly worries a lot. From the big things that seem bigger, like the idea of something happening to her parents to the small things that seem massive, such as spilling her juice or losing her bunny rabbit toy, everything makes her panic. But then comes the biggest worry of all- starting school! How will Wemberly fare when she hasn’t got Mummy and Daddy around to help her anymore? While the sweet illustrations really bring Wemberly’s story to life, what’s really important about this book is that is shows children that even though they might always worry, it doesn’t have to ruin the enjoyment of the here and now.
Age range: 3-6
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, Jill Tomlinson
What’s it about? This lovely short story follows the life of a young barn owl called Plop. Plop is an owl, but there’s just one problem- he’s totally terrified of the dark! What could be lurking in the dark? Monsters? No! Horrible nightmarish things? No, no, no! Determined to overcome his fear of the dark, this seven chapter story tracks Plop’s discovery of the dark and his encounters with people that love it. Will he ever be able to love the dark like the other owls? Short and sweet, this is a tale about conquering your fears and being brave.
Age range: 5-8
The Worry Website, Jacqueline Wilson
What’s it about? This collection of little stories is based on the lives of a junior class as they try to navigate life’s problems. Mr Speed sets up his new Worry Website, dedicated to helping his students feel able to trust and confide their problems and anxieties. Along with many others, there’s William, who worries about not being good at anything, Samantha whose dad left the family and Natasha, who uses a voice machine to be able to communicate. This book sensitively confronts various topics, from dating to domestic violence to nightmares and deep-seated insecurities, and does so with the tact and sincerity that has made Jacqueline Wilson one of our best loved authors to date.
Age range: 7-11