Mental Health

A mom and daughter sit on the couch reading children's books about depression.
Cavan Images/Getty Images
These 18 Children’s Books Will Help You Talk About Depression

Because it’s a hard thing to talk about.

by Lindsay E. Mack
Originally Published: 
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Discussing mental health topics with your kids can feel so intimidating. Honestly, plenty of adults are challenged by the topic, so explaining something like depression in kid-friendly terms can be pretty difficult. Thankfully, there are plenty of children’s books about depression to make the conversation easier, and many child psychologists recommend using books as a way to start a mental health dialogue with your kids early.

When to discuss mental health issues with children

In general, it’s never too early to start the discussion about mental health with your kids. “Parents can discuss mental health information with their kids at any age, but the way we explain and teach about it will vary by age,” Dr. Amy Nasamran, licensed child psychologist and founder of Atlas Psychology, tells Romper. “It's important to explain things in age-appropriate language and consider where kids are at in their own emotional learning.”

For instance, children who are preschool-aged will understand emotions in broad strokes (happy, sad, or afraid), while elementary-aged children can start to understand more nuanced feelings such as anxiety or depression, Nasamran says. Beginning the dialogue about mental health early on can impact your child positively, experts agree. “It is never too young to start teaching children coping skills. Starting them young, in this regard, can be preventative in terms of decreasing the risk for the development of certain mental health challenges, including symptoms of depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Toya Robertson-Moore, associate medical director with Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center.

How books can help

Children’s books can be a great resource for you when you start exploring mental health topics as a family. “Books are excellent tools for introducing mental health concepts. Using characters mitigates the weight of responsibility in the child and parent to explain or justify their reactions,” Dr. Tanye’ S. Tyler, DSW, MBA, LSW, chief innovations officer at A New Day Mental Wellness Center, tells Romper. “While reading with their children, parents can reference the character’s behaviors and ask the child, ‘What do you think this character was feeling?’ or ‘How would you feel if this happened to you?’”

“Reading books can help engage kids at their level,” says Nasamran. “Most kids’ books already use age-appropriate language and words that make it easier for kids to grasp.”

With this in mind, here are some children’s books about depression that help bring light to the condition.


A Book About Feeling “Blue”

Poor Coen just isn’t feeling like himself today. His parents and sister try everything to cheer him up, and nothing is doing the trick. When he’s able to open up and share what he needs, he starts to feel less like sniffling and more like smiling.


A Book That Emphasizes Sadness

This book, written with kids ages 3 to 7 in mind, is the perfect introduction to understanding feelings, especially the complicated kind. The author turns Sadness into a visitor, teaching readers that it might come and go (and sometimes overstay its welcome), but that it’s a separate from them, and not who they are.


A Book About A Parent With Depression

If you’re looking for a book to help you explain your depression to your child in an age-appropriate way, you need In the Blue. Using colors to show every family member’s feelings, follow along with a little girl as she learns about her dad’s depression (and how he’ll always love her, no matter how he’s feeling).


A Story About Kids Seeing Depression In Their Family

This sweet story explores the relationship between Arthur and his Papa, who is living with depression. It’s ultimately a hopeful story that explains mental health and depression in a way kids can understand.


A Story About Depression & Loneliness

Blueloon isn’t as playful and fun as all the other balloons, and it shows. This sweet story explores childhood depression with relatable characters and situations.


A Story Written By The Experts

This book imagines depression as a blue monster that follows Brianna around, making her sad easily. Written by a clinical social worker, the story shows how Brianna works with a therapist to help manage the “monster.”


A Children’s Guide About Depression

Designed for readers age 7 and up, Can I Tell You About Depression? has the character Julie explain what depression is and how people cope with it. The book also offers advice for people whose friends and family live with depression. The simple, straightforward text helps make the condition easier for children to understand.


A Story That Personifies Depression

Written by a psychologist, this book imagines depression as a dog that follows the main character Charlie around. The story also includes tips to help manage depression.


A Book That Shows Depression With Colors

As his father gets lost in a world with no color, a child learns more about the condition of depression. And as his father gets treatment, the colors reappear. This is a symbolic read and perfect for children who see their parents struggling, but can’t understand why.


A Story That Gives Kids Coping Mechanisms

With help from Barnaby the Rabbit, Danny learns how to cope with his big blue cloud (aka depression) that keeps following him around. This book also contains a note to caregivers with more information about childhood depression, and the story itself offers some comfort.


A Book That Explains What Depression Actually Feels Like

Addressing the complex topic in an honest way, this book examines the author’s own experiences with depression. It candidly explains what depression feels like, and how it affects a person’s daily life.


“Meh: A Story About Depression” by Deborah Malcolm

This children’s book, aptly titled Meh, helps explain the difference between depression and sadness in a picture book. Children and adults alike can learn from the character’s journey through depression, and it can open up dialogue about when the feelings are just too much to deal with on their own.


A Book On Depression Told From A Dog’s Point Of View

Cleverly told from a loving dog’s point of view, this book examines the many ways depression can affect a person, in this case the dog’s owner, Rupert. Celeste learns that Rupert’s low mood isn’t her fault, which is a valuable lesson for any child whose caregiver is going through depression.


A Story About Depression As A Fog

Designed for children around the ages 5 to 7, this book uses humor and metaphor to explain the realities of childhood depression, and it’s recommended by Dr. Nasamran. The fog makes the young princess feel a lack of interest in her formerly beloved interests, and that specific trait of depression can feel incredibly relatable to children.


A Book With A Q&A About Depression

Great as a discussion tool, this picture book explores the sensitive topic of depression in a reassuring, age-appropriate way for kids. The series of questions from the child to her father with depression will help explain the condition to other young readers.


A Story About A Sadness That Settles For Days

Sadly is a little owl who lives for line dancing, until a cloud appears over his head and does not leave. This gentle story explains the kind of sadness that lasts for days.


A Book About Depression For Middle-Grade Readers

Recommended for readers around the ages of 8 to 12, The Science of Breakable Things introduces middle schooler Natalie, who wants to win an egg drop competition and use the prize money to help her mom regain happiness. However, not everything is so easy to fix. It’s a careful and sensitive depiction of depression that middle grade readers will appreciate.


A Straight-Forward Story On What Depression Is Like For Kids

Designed for readers aged 4 to 11, this illustrated children’s book explains childhood depression in a direct, simple way. Read it with your kid to gain a better understanding of the ways depression can affect children, and what it can feel like for them.

Whether your child is showing signs of depression or you want to be able to explain to them how you’re feeling, these children’s books about depression can offer some talking points and metaphors that are relatable to everyone.


Dr. Amy Nasamran, licensed child psychologist and founder of Atlas Psychology

Dr. Toya Robertson-Moore, associate medical director with Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center

This article was originally published on