Self-help has been a booming genre for adults for decades, with books available that can teach us everything from how to boost our self-esteem, overcome addiction, and deal with mental illness to how to actualise our wildest dreams. Adults often buy self-help when we reach a turning point in our lives, or find ourselves in a rut, and want to make some major changes. But what about children? Self-help books for kids are less of a well-known genre than their adult counterparts, because we don’t think of children as having to relearn or start over. Surely they should be learning the right things from the very beginning, led by good guidance from parents and teachers?
Well, yes, in an ideal world. But things aren’t always ideal, and even if they’re pretty good, children, like adults, can use all the support they can get. If a young person in your life needs support, self-help books can be a great resource to help deal with a bump in the road. Whether they’re dealing with self-esteem problems, or the many changes that take place in childhood are getting a bit too much, self-help books can give them some extra advice and support. Here are some of the best self-help books for kids that are currently out there, from young children to tweens and teens.
Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
A great book for very young children who are dealing with uncomfortable feelings, Big Feelings is a beautiful picture book that follows a neighbourhood group of children as they deal with their emotions. Focusing on dealing with disappointment when things don’t go to plan, Big Feelings shows young readers how to process overwhelm and frustration, important life skills for the future.
The Marcus Rashford You Are a Champion Action Planner by Marcus Rashford and Katie Mobed
Footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford released this planner as a follow-up to his life guide You Are a Champion, as a way to help children build on his earlier lessons. Full of activities that kids can work through, the planner is full of journaling prompts and ways to plan in order to achieve their goals.
You are Awesome by Matthew Syed
You are Awesome is a motivational book for children who have big dreams, but maybe lack the confidence to pursue them. Using examples of famous people such as Mozart and Serena Williams, it shows children how to build resilience, believe in themselves, and structure their plans to help them achieve what they want to.
How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath, Mary Reckmeyer, and Maurie J. Manning
Childhood is a time where we learn how to interact with others — and also a time where we can often learn bad lessons around setting boundaries. Adults often get burned out because they have not learned how to effectively set boundaries with others, but How Full is Your Bucket? teaches children how to manage their interactions with people using a simple but effective metaphor.
This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson is best known for her fiction, but she is also the author of several brilliant nonfiction books. This Book is Gay is a helpful and insightful guide for children who are realising their LGBTQI+ identities, or who want to support friends who are discovering this part of themselves, including testimonials from people of all genders and sexualities.
Stick Up for Yourself! Every Kid’s Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem by Gershen Kaufman, Pamela Espeland, and Lev Raphael
Learning how to be assertive and stand up for yourself is one of the most important life lessons anyone can learn, and Stick Up for Yourself! teaches kids these skills at an early age. Using the lessons in this book, children will learn how to build self-esteem and self-confidence, how to protect themselves online, and how to cope with feelings of powerlessness.
Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life by Riyadh Khalaf, Illustrated by Melissa McFeeters
While it’s aimed primarily at gay, bi, and pan teen boys, Riyadh Khalaf’s debut book is a great read for all teenagers. It has useful advice on dealing with anxiety and bullying, as well as useful sections on coming out and negotiating first relationships.
I Would But My Damn Mind Won’t Let Me: A Guide for Teen Girls by Jacqui Letran
Getting control of your thoughts and feelings is a struggle for anyone at any age, but it can be particularly difficult when you’re a teen. Focusing particularly on how to deal with negative thoughts caused by social media, this book teaches coping skills, resilience, and ways to make the best decisions.
While these self-help books are a great start, there are many more resources out there for kids who need a little extra help. To teach younger children about compassion, try 10 Children’s Books About Empathy. Older teens can find helpful resources at 15 Wise and Witty Self-Help Books for Teens.