It’s my turn again for a Storytime blog but this time around I’m getting serious and talking about parents with mental health issues. This can be very hard for children to understand and just as hard for parents who are in the midst of these issues to be able to explain. To hopefully help, I’ve put together a few books that deal with depression, bipolar disorder, and other issues. We have a new member to the Chidlren’s Services team and she’s helping with this blog – welcome Melody – you’ll see a blog from her soon.
Two of the three books deal with mums but there is nothing to stop you from reading these books with ‘dad’, ‘nana’, ‘aunty’, or anyone else in their place. The pictures might not work but the words will help – and there is always the option to create your own book about your child’s personal experiences which you can use as part of the ongoing conversation that you may have about this topic.
We acknowledge that everyone’s experiences are different so these are just suggestions for people looking for ways of talking about these problems with children.

Books


My Happy Sad Mummy by Michelle Vasiliu and illustrated by Lucia Masciullo.

Michelle Vailiu wrote this book as a way to explain to her children her own experiences as a mother with bipolar disorder. The book talks in very straightforward and simple terms about the happy sad mum without going into labels. It is all from the child’s perspective and experiences. It deals with care from grandparents and the father that contrast with the care provided by the mum. There is no judgement in the tone of the book and I think it would be a good way of explaining bipolar disorder to children even if the family member is not a mother.


My Mum Has Depression
by Nina Mitchell and illustrated by Piet Van

This is a simplified and honest way of explaining what some people with depression feel, especially around their children, and what they really like to be able to say but often can’t. This is a brilliant book and I think it would be very good for any child, regardless of age, whose parent is dealing with depression.
Melody, who has struggled with this problem herself, felt that this book would have been very helpful when her children were younger in helping them to understand her problem.


Kit Kitten and the Topsy Turvy Feelings : a Story About Parents Who Aren’t Always Able to Care by Jane Evans and illustrated by Izzy Bean.

Kit Kitten lives with an adult cat called Kizz Cat (no gender specified for either character which is a great touch). Kizz Cat cannot always care for Kit Kitten the way they might need to be cared for. The reasons for this aren’t specified but it makes Kit Kitten feel things they do not understand. Because Kizz Cat cannot always deal with their own emotions they do not have the ability to teach Kit Kitten about emotions – words for them, strategies for dealing with them, and information about how they affect you physically. In the book Kit Kitten gets help from other safe, caring adults who help them to understand what feelings are and strategies to use going into the future. This is probably the book in this list which is the most universal.

Rhyme

Rhymes about this topic don’t really exist but rhymes about feelings are always a good addition to your library of rhymes so I’m going to share some of those with you.

Sometimes I Feel Happy
Sometimes I feel happy,
Sometimes I feel sad.
Sometimes I feel curious,
Sometimes I feel mad.
Sometimes I feel silly,
Sometimes I feel surprised.
How many feelings,
Do I have inside?

Feelings
When I am sad, I want to cry.
When I am proud, I want to fly.
When I am curious, I want to know.
When I am impatient, I want to go.
When I am bored, I want to play.
When I am happy, I smile all day.
When I am shy, I want to hide.
When I’m depressed, I stay inside.
When I am puzzled, I want to shrug.
When I am loving, I kiss and hug.

Craft – Feelings Flip Chart
This craft is about giving children ownership of their own feelings (by drawing the pictures themselves) and giving them a way to share how they are feeling. This could be in response to the adult who is also struggling with their emotions or in response to other situations. This could easily be made into a family feeling chart by creating a chart on the fridge for each person with some blue tack for the emotion drawings. 
Feeling flipbook (1) Feeling flipbook (2) Feeling flipbook (3)

What you need:
– white paper/card broken up into a number of boxes.
– pencils
– scissors
– hole punch
– something to tie all of the cards together – I used a pipe cleaner.

What you do:
– draw different emotions into the boxes or squares of paper. This can be tailored to the needs of the child – or the adult – who is making it (it may be good to add words for new adults to be able to understand the drawings depending on the child’s ability),
– cut the boxes out,
– punch a hole in one corner,
– tie them all together.

You now have a feelings flip chart that you can put into your pocket and use anytime you need to talk about emotions.

If you know of other good resources to help children learn about and deal with parental mental health we would love to hear about them.

If you are worried about someone in your life here are some services to contact.