Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 9-15 May. It is an annual event with activities and events running through the week to help us focus on the importance of good mental health.
Books are a wonderful way to help children learn about themselves and about the world, and to share their concerns and fears in a safe environment. We are more aware than ever about the importance of good mental health, and whilst anxiety is natural part of development for children it is important to teach them strategies to help deal with worry and understand when further support is needed.
There are many organisations that offer information to help you spot the sign that a child is suffering and ways to support :
The Childline website has tips to cope with feelings of anxiety caused by the pandemic - and is a great service children can contact to talk about any issues that are worrying them. Established in 1986, Childline is a free and confidential service for children to contact online, or on the phone, 24hrs a day with trained counsellers ready to listen.
Mentally Healthy Schools brings together quality-assured resources to help primary schools promote children’s mental health and wellbeing. To support school staff and parents during these uncertain times they have produced curated toolkits, with resources to help manage anxiety and improve wellbeing.
And Next Comes L has hundreds of activites and play ideas for toddlers and all school aged children. There are also a range of tips and resources to help a child suffering anxiety including printable worksheets.
The NSPCC have advice to help you support children who may be experiencing depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings or self-harm.
We have also gathered together a collection of books that might help relieve some of the negative feelings and help our children find ways to cope, through mindfulness exercises and gentle storytelling.
Ruby's Worry by Tom Percival. Everyone could learn from Ruby. She’s a perfectly happy little girl, until she discovers a worry. The worry – depicted as a scribbly yellow shape – is hardly noticeable at first, but starts to grow and soon it’s with her all the time, stopping her from doing the things she loves. Readers will recognise Ruby’s problems and see their own lives reflected in hers. Sensitive and very reassuring this clever book raises lots of opportunities for children to talk about their worries.
Storm in a Jar by Samuel Langley-Swain is an authentic, honest, hugely valuable picture book about loss and managing grief’s emotional storms. Perfectly child-centred, it tells the moving, honest story of loveable Arlo’s distress in the wake of his much-loved Nana passing away. A valuable practical tool for adults seeking to help children understand and manage loss and grief, and truly a support for children experiencing them.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse written & illustrated by Charlie Mackesy has been a bestseller across the globe. It's a touching story of friendship, love and compassion accompanied by beautiful illustrations and little flashes of insight into the human condition: “We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse.
The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright and Chris Chatterton perfectly visualises how a child’s anxieties can grow and how they can learn to deal with them. The Worrysaurus is a lovable little dinosaur but he is a natural worrier finding it difficult to switch off and live in the moment. It's a reassuring and sweet story but it's also a useful resource to help prompt discussions about anxiety with very young children.
My Little Book of Big Questions by Britta Teckentrup is a book to encourage contemplation, one that in our frenetic world enables children to be able stop and think. It accepts that not all questions have answers, certainly not right or wrong ones, and that conversation is vital to working things out. Amongst the big questions posed are some that are existential: why am I afraid of what I don’t know? And others that are hypothetical and abstract: Is it possible to understand the whole universe? A perfect tool to encourage thoughtfulness and discussion.
The Problem with Problems, written in rhyming text by the award-winning poet Rachel Rooney, is a positive way of looking at everyday problems that children have and how to deal with them. The problems are all given a brightly coloured physical form to help children see them for what they are - and look at ways to deal with them.
It's a No-Money Day written by Kate Milner is a heart-breaking child’s eye view of life below the poverty line. The little girl, who tells the story, takes great pleasure in life from the simple, free activities they share - visits to the library and dressing up in the charity shops. Unlike her humiliated Mum, she loves the visits to the food bank for the drink and biscuits and the kind ladies to talk to. This is a book which can be used with a very wide range of children and will encourage empathy and discussion of a very current and appalling crisis in our society.
We Feel Happy by Kate Abey is an excellent introduction to feelings for the very young, with full page spreads busy with artwork illustrating a group of animals experiencing a range of emotions. Presented in a lively, fun way to encourage children to explore why and how they feel happy, or grumpy, scared or excited.
The Sad Ghost Club 2 by Lize Meddings follows the success of the first in this series targeted at teens who feel anxiety and loneliness and spawned @theofficialsadghostclub community with over half a million Instagram followers. The Sad Ghost Club is a secret society for people who think they don't belong, set up by two strangers who meet at a crowded party and recognise in each other a kindred spirit, told in stunning graphic novel format.
Happy: A Children's Book of Mindfulness by Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey is a stunningly illustrated picture book, a sensitive and calming introduction for young readers on how to engage with the beauty of the world to help them to deal with the big emotions of life; Listening, Loving, Feeling...
Even the darkest storm passes,
The sun can't shine bright every day,
We can sit with our feelings and notice
How they roll through us then blow away.