The best children’s books for mental health

Jessica Sinarski Author Of What's Inside Your Backpack?
By Jessica Sinarski

The Books I Picked & Why

Me and My Feelings: A Kids' Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves

By Vanessa Green Allen

Me and My Feelings: A Kids' Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves

Why this book?

This book lays a great foundation to help children understand their feelings (and the feelings of others). The author draws on her experience as a school counselor to expertly walk the reader through some essential social-emotional learning. The bright colors and clever illustrations keep kids engaged, and the activities throughout make this a fabulous title to use at home, school, or in the counseling office.⁠


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Hey Awesome: A Book for Kids about Anxiety, Courage, and Being Already Awesome

By Karen Young, Norvile Dovidonyte

Hey Awesome: A Book for Kids about Anxiety, Courage, and Being Already Awesome

Why this book?

In my work in the world of mental health and trauma, anxiety is a common complaint. I love the positive (and scientifically accurate) portrayal of the function of anxiety in this whimsically illustrated book. “Sometimes your brain works so hard to protect you, it hits the panic button by mistake.” With this strengths-based framework woven into every page, Hey Awesome teaches kids how to be the boss of their brilliant and brave brains. A must-read for all children, and a lifeline for those who struggle with anxiety. And remember, “anxiety and courage always happen together.”


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Anger Management Workbook for Kids: 50 Fun Activities to Help Children Stay Calm and Make Better Choices When They Feel Mad

By Samantha Snowden

Anger Management Workbook for Kids: 50 Fun Activities to Help Children Stay Calm and Make Better Choices When They Feel Mad

Why this book?

Anger is so often protecting something tender underneath. When we teach children to dig deeper, to be curious about their angry feelings, we offer them a path to emotional health and better relationships. While many anger management programs (for kids and adults) neglect the nuances of anger’s protective function, this book delivers insightful lessons and activities to help children dig deep. The colorful layout and bright illustrations capture children’s interest even as they learn about this difficult topic. A great resource for turning on the calm and curious part of the brain that we are all working hard to help children develop.


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Letting Go!

By Dr. Sharie Coombes, Ellie O’Shea

Letting Go!

Why this book?

Grief, unfortunately, is a part of life. Western culture has a habit of ignoring and minimizing grief in detrimental ways. When we gently turn toward the difficult stuff in life, we can “feel and deal” in ways that benefit mental health. There are many books about grieving the death of a loved one (a list for another day, perhaps), but few acknowledge the other intense and life-altering kinds of loss and change that children are grieving. Dr. Coombes’ book is much more inclusive–plus, it delivers a treasure trove of activities to help children (and adults) navigate this challenging part of being human. The delightful doodles will appeal to upper elementary and quite a few tweens and teens.


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Marcy's Having All the Feels

By Allison Edwards, Valeria DeCampo

Marcy's Having All the Feels

Why this book?

Mental health does not mean that we will feel happy all the time. This book helps children embrace a range of emotions, even some of those uncomfortable ones, like frustration and jealousy. The playful illustrations engage young readers about the abstract topic of emotions. It would be easy to get creative, helping children draw an image of their “happy” or “angry” feelings. Great conversation starter for elementary school students on managing a range of emotions.


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