Big Topics for the Little Ones
There are lots of big and scary things happening in the world right now. The school shooting in Uvalde, the invasion of Ukraine, systemic violence against people of color, the ongoing toll of the pandemic: these are hard things to deal with as an adult, let alone explain to a child.
When faced with painful news, it can be tempting to shelter children—to protect them from a hurtful world, and maybe to protect ourselves from difficult conversations. But the fact is that kids encounter many hurtful and scary stories, whether or not we want to share them. And more often then not, they need support to process their grief, worry, or anger.
According to the Child Mind Institute, you can help children deal with frightening news by:
• Having calm conversations about the scary news
• Letting children lead the conversation by encouraging curiosity and answering questions honestly, even if the answer is "I don't know"
• Helping children express their emotions through art, stories, or play
• Processing your grief together by taking positive action: memorialize those who have died, get involved in local initiatives, and help others
A few more resources about talking to children about difficult topics:
How to talk to your kids about school shootings (Washington Post) by Amy Joyce
What to say to kids about school shootings to ease their stress (NPR) by Allison Aubrey
Talking to Kids About Racism and Violence by the Child Mind Institute
Resilience guide for parents and teachers by the American Psychological Association
If you're looking for a way to open conversations about big emotions and scary experiences, one way to open the door is with literature. Below, you can find some literary resources for young readers, selected by Rachel, the director of our children's department.
To be clear: we are not asking you to buy these books from us. They're accessible on our webstore for those who want to own a copy, but there are so many ways to read and share stories: borrow from the library, swap with friends, or listen to audiobooks. Plus, books aren't for everyone. This isn't a one-size-fits-all way to start difficult conversations.
But if your young one enjoys reading and stories, treat this list as another resource to help young children explore and express their feelings and open conversations about mental health in a big, scary world.
Kids' Books about Mental Health: