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Books to get kids talking about mental health

Children’s Mental Health Week is the perfect time to discuss wellbeing with the help of some expert authors

<p>It’s positive for kids of all ages to understand their emotions</p>

It’s positive for kids of all ages to understand their emotions

This week marks Children’s Mental Health Week, an event started back in 2015 by children’s charity Place2Be. The theme for 2021 is “express yourself”, with the organisation encouraging parents and kids alike to get creative.

We know that lockdown has had an effect on the mental wellbeing of children. In December 2020, research showed that more than four in 10 parents had seen their children display behaviours that suggested heightened anxiety since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Almost half of the 1,000 parents of four- to 12-year-olds who took part said they felt that the pandemic had also “negatively impacted” on their children’s friendships.

Read more: Simple hobbies to keep the kids busy in lockdown

Looking ahead, Place2Be clinical director Dr Niki Cooper says that we “don’t know” what the long-term mental health impact of this pandemic will be. “Our school-based mental health professionals estimate that 85 per cent of the young people we support have been negatively affected,” she says. 

“But, when therapists and education professionals work closely together… at least we can equip children and young people with the life skills they need to be able to weather the storm.”

Speaking in a selfie video shared on the kensingtonroyal Instagram account, the Duchess of Cambridge, who has supported Children’s Mental Health Week since its inception, encouraged families to find “creative ways in which to share your thoughts, ideas and feelings”.

She also reminded parents to look after their wellbeing too, saying: “And while this is Children's Mental Health Week, there has never been a more important time to talk about parental wellbeing and mental health too… Find those ways in which to share your thoughts and your feelings or find someone to talk to, because we really do need to be the very best versions of ourselves for the children in our care.”

We’ve shared lots of creative ideas for kids and adults to try in lockdown over the past few weeks. And, if you’re keen to start a conversation with your child, we can recommend some great books to prompt discussion. Take a look.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.  

‘The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions’, by Anna Llenas, published by Little, Brown: £10.37, Blackwell’s

This book has been designed to help young readers of up to five years talk about, and unpack, their feelings.

One day Color Monster wakes up confused: he feels angry, happy, calm and scared all at once. As he learns to define his emotions, he gains peace and with that comes understanding.  

Buy now

‘Ruby’s Worry’ by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury: £6.06, Book Depository

Have you got a child who’s a bit of a worrier? This sweetly illustrated book by Tom Percival follows the story of Ruby, who has a worry which grows and grows – we know the feeling! 

How can she let go of it? The resolution is optimistic but realistic, and hopefully this read will enable your child to open up about any anxieties as you look at it together.

Buy now 

‘What’s Going On Inside My Head?’ by Molly Potter, published by Featherstone: £10.11, WHSmith

Author Molly Potter taught in a primary school for 11 years, and this book has been designed to help open up conversations about mental wellbeing with children.

It explores the ways that kids can keep their minds healthy, exploring topics such as positive self-image, emotional intelligence, relationships and mindfulness. It could prove a great foundation for some positive habits.

Buy now

‘Choose you! Become the Unique, Incredible & Happy Teenager you Choose to Be’ by Dr Sharie Coombes, published by Templar: £7.99, Foyles

This self-help book for older kids, aged 12 and above, was written by a teacher turned psychotherapist, and has been designed to help teens understand the neuroscience of their brain.

“It’s a book to help you to be happy with who you truly are, now and in the future,” says Sharie Coombes.

It made it into our rundown of the best motivational books for kids of 2020, with our reviewer saying: “With lots of motivational quotes, activities, ideas and a list of useful organisations, Choose You! is ideal for teenagers who want to be challenged by thought-provoking ideas.” Perfect for those indoor lockdown days ahead.

Buy now

‘Happy Confident Me Journal’ published by Best of Parenting Publishing: £5.99, Amazon

If you think your child would benefit from writing their thoughts and feelings down rather than speaking aloud, this journal, designed for six- to 12-year-olds, will give them the opportunity to share their emotions, but also to be more positive, note down achievements and write and doodle as they want to.

You can take five minutes to go through it with them each day (or perhaps they might want to do it with a sibling) or leave them to it, and try and ask them later about what they’ve written down.

It includes quotes from people as diverse as Taylor Swift and the Dalai Lama, and the company that’s produced it also has a host of online activities to try for boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Buy now

For tips on keeping the kids occupied during lockdown, take a look at some of our screen-free activity ideas

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