Helping Children Explore Mental Health Through Reading and Mobile Apps

As parents, it is important to support our children with compassion and guidance. Helping them to understand that mental health is as important as physical health removes the stigma and allows them to stay in touch with their emotions and be more understanding of others.

Today, as more children and teens face questions about mental health, books can play a role in helping them to better understand and communicate their emotions. Many children’s authors have courageously taken on a variety mental health topics to help inform and encourage children to ask questions. Providing children with books is a great way to get the conversation started. For children twelve and under, it is important that parents read and discuss the books together, so they are both learning the techniques. This also show the child that the parent is engaged in helping them to find healthy coping strategies.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has put together a list of recommendations including these popular titles:

Books About ADD/ADHD

  • A Boy and a Bear: The Children’s Relation Book by Lori Lite (for ages 3-10)
  • Marvin’s Monster Diary — ADHD Attacks! by Raun Melmed and Annette Sexton (for ages 7-11)

Books About Anger and Impulse Control

  • I Was So Mad by Mercer Meyer (ages 3-7)
  • What To Do When Your Temper Flares by Dawn Heubner (for ages 8-12)

Books About Anxiety, Worry and OCD

  • (Anxiety) David and the Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci (for ages 4-9)
  • (Anxiety) What To Do When You’re Scared and Worried by James Crist (for ages 8-12)
  • (Anxiety and Worry) Any of the Dawn Huebner series (for ages 6 - 12)
  • (OCD) Up and Down the Worry Hill by Aureen Pinto Wagner (for ages 7-10)
  • (OCD) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (for ages 13+)

Books About Depression

  • Blueloon by Julia Cook (for ages 5-8)
  • Meh by Deborah Malcolm (for ages 6-10)
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen (for teenagers)
  • Monochrome Days by Dwight L. Evans (for teenagers)

In today’s world, kids are more likely to engage with their smart devices than a book, so the following apps, designed to help children and teens manage anxiety and depression, are a great option:

Mobile Apps for Children

  • Positive Penguins — four positive penguins help children understand feeling and thoughts.
  • Worry Box — a digital journal for children to record their worrisome thoughts and get help managing them.
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame — interactive “play time” with a Sesame Street monster to help parents identify and manage anxieties.

Mobile Apps for Teens

  • HelloMind — designed to help change negative thought patterns
  • Headspace — guided meditation for all ages.
  • Smiling Mind — designed to help teens with pressure, stress, and the challenges of daily life.
  • Stop, Breathe, Think — mindfulness activities geared toward middle school aged children.
  • Moodshift — brief intervention to target anxiety and depression
  • Simple Habit — brief intervention to target anxiety and depression
  • Insight Time — meditation practice options

These resources are great support materials in addition to seeing a therapist or talking to your pediatric provider. For additional resources and questions, UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics behavior health providers are available to provide education and support. Reach out to your child’s care provider if you have any concerns.