Tough Topics

Talking to Youth about Tough Topics

When children and caregivers are grieving, even the most basic tasks and responsibilities can be difficult. Taking a bath, completing homework, or doing chores can lead to meltdowns and shouting matches. Conversations about topics like racism, gender identity, addiction and others may feel especially overwhelming. Our clinicians created a list of topics that can impact grief for families.

These topics and resources will expand over time. We hope these resources support caregivers in responding to children’s questions with curiosity and openness.

We acknowledge that the topics, terms, and resources listed may not fit for everyone. You know your family and community best. If we are missing a topic or you have other resources that could be helpful, please contact us.

Addiction & Substance Misuse

Web Resources:

Young Children:

  • Sesame Street provides resources to help children and families cope with the challenges of addiction together. Discover printables, videos, and more.

Older Children and Adolescents:


My Dad Loves Me, My Dad Has a Disease
by Claudia Black
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
A workbook with pictures and stories by young people with opportunities for children to express their own feelings and perceptions through drawing and writing.

An Elephant in the Living Room
by Jill M. Hastings, M.S. & Marion H. Typpo, PhD
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
An illustrated story to help children understand and cope with the problem of alcoholism or other drug addiction in the family.

If You Give an Ox an Oxy
by Dr. Laura E. Happe, PharmD
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
A colorful illustrated book that talks about opioids, addiction, and the dangerous effects of misuse.

For Teenagers Living with a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs
by Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
Teens get answers to common questions about alcoholism including: What causes alcoholism? Where can I get help? What do I do about the abuse? Should I stay at home? Where can I go?

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change
by Jeffrey Foote, PhD, Carrie Wilkens, PhD & Nicole Kosanke, PhD with Stephanie Higgs
Recommended for Young Adults
A book that offers scientific-based practical advice for family and friends to learn to use the power of relationships for positive change.

Understanding Addiction and Recovery Through a Child’s Eyes: Hope, Help, and Healing for Families
by Jerry Moe
Recommended for Adults
A collection of stories and humorous anecdotes about children and teens who are navigating their way through the healing process of coping with addiction and recovery.


My Child and Addiction: Parent-to-Parent Podcast
Hosted by three fathers whose children are addicts
Recommended for caregivers of a child with an addiction
Hosts and other parent support group participants share their stories of this challenging journey so that other parents and family members can feel encouraged and supported.

Let’s Talk Addiction & Recovery
Hosted by William C. Moyers, author and recovery advocate
Recommended for caregivers struggling with substance use
Presented by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, hear what leading addiction and recovery experts are talking about that point the most promising way forward.

Recovery Rocks
Hosted by Tawny Lara & Lisa Smith
Recommended for Adults & Young Adults
SobrieTEA Party founder, Tawny, and her mentor Lisa host an inclusive discussion for anyone recovering or curious about recovery from substance abuse or addiction.


Web Resources:

Young Children:

  • The Pacer Center: Champions for Children with Disabilities provides helpful resources for families to make decisions about education and other services for children or young adults with disabilities.

Older Children and Adolescents:

  • Special Olympics supports people with intellectual disabilities in discovering new strengths, abilities, skills, and success through sports.


It’s Okay to Be Different
by Todd Parr
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
It’s Okay to Be Different is a picture book that celebrates differences.

Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
by Sonia Sotomayor
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
This book uses the analogy of a garden to show that just as different flowers make a beautiful garden, different types of people make our work more vibrant and wonderful.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability
by Shane Burcaw
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
In this book, author Shane Burcaw introduces himself as having Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and addresses common questions about his life.

El Deafo
by Cece Bell
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This graphic memoir is a humorous and inspiring novel about a child grappling with hearing loss, entering school, and making friends.

Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body
by Rebekah Taussig
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
Author Rebekah Taussig provides insights from her life in the form of essays in this memoir about how disability affects us all.

The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius
by Gail Saltz, M.D.
Recommended for Young Adults
This book highlights scientific research and stories from historical geniuses and everyday people who have not only made the most of their condition, but who have flourished because of them.

Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment
by James I. Charlton
Recommended for Adults
James Charlton provides a theoretical overview of disability oppression and includes interviews conducted over a 10-year period with disability rights activists.


Special Parents Confidential
Hosted by John Pellegrini
Recommended for Parents or Caregivers of special needs children
An online support group source for dependable advice and information.

Disarming Disability
Hosted by Nicole Kelly and Sarah Tuberty
Recommended for Young Adults and Adults
The podcast’s mission is to powerfully deconstruct disability through candid conversations with experts exploring topics related to disability.


Web Resources: 

Young Children:

  • Sesame Street has a library of resources and activities to help children cope with divorce.

Older Children and Adolescents:

  • Families Change is an interactive website with age-appropriate information to help guide parents, teens, and kids through separation and divorce.


The Family Book
by Todd Parr
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
The Family Book is a picture book that celebrates many different types of families.

Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide to Changing Families
By: Laurie Kransy Brown & Marc Brown
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
A book about what divorce means, why it happens, and how best to cope with related changes and feelings.

My Family is Changing: A Drawing and Activity Book for Kids of Divorce
By: Tracy McConaghie, LCSW
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
This interactive book includes stories, activities, and drawing pages for children to process and explore expressing their feelings about divorce.

Getting Through My Parents’ Divorce: A Workbook for Children Coping with Divorce, Parental Alienation and Loyalty Conflicts
By: Amy Baker & Katherine Andre
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This workbook is designed to help kids manage negative impacts of custody disputes, understand and identify their feelings, and learn to cope with stress and other complex emotions.

The Divorce Helpbook for Teens
By: Cynthia MacGregor
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
This workbook provides teens with the tools to cope with divorce.

Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce
By: Carol R. Hughes & Bruce R. Fredenburg
Recommended for Young Adults
Adult children are often overlooked and forgotten when their parents divorce later in life, but in these pages they will find comfort and understanding for the many feelings, frustrations, and challenges they face.


High Conflict Co-Parenting Podcast
Hosted by High Conflict Divorce Expert, Brook Olsen HHP/SEP
Recommended for Parents and Caregivers
Guests discuss principles, tools, and techniques to create peace in high-conflict co-parenting relationships.

Foster Care & Adoption

Web Resources:

Young Children:

  • Sesame Street has curated resources that can help foster parents help children in crisis cope with their separation from birth parents, their placement in foster care, lots of moves, and, possibly, reunions.

Older Children & Adolescents:

  • FosterClub is an international network for youth in foster care. FosterClub’s mission is to lead the efforts of young people in and from foster care to become connected, educated, inspired and represented so they can realize their personal potential and contribute to a better life for their peers.


One Family
by George Shannon
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
A counting book that shows how a family can be big or small and comprised of people ranging in age, gender, and race.

A Family is a Family is a Family
by Sarah O’Leary
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
A picture book about families of varied shapes, sizes, and relations. The story’s common theme is caring people make a family special.

The Great Big Book of Families
by Mary Hoffman
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
The Great Big Book of Families features a wide variety of families and aspects of home life for each.

We’re Adopted, So What? Teens Tell It Like It Is.
by Gayle H. Swift & Casey A. Swift
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This graphic-style book features five teen girls, their unique experiences, thoughts, and feelings on being adopted.

The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System
by Youth Communication
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
This book features a collection of over three dozen personal narratives of young writers and their account of growing up in foster care.

Welcome Home: An Anthology on Love and Adoption
Compilation edited by Eric Smith
Recommended for Young Adults
This book includes a collection of adoption-themed fictional stories from a diverse range of young adult authors.


Creating a Family: Talk About Adoption & Foster Care
Hosted by adoption and foster-care leaders and experts
Recommended for Foster or Adoptive Parents and Caregivers
Every week they interview leading experts for an hour talking about the topics you really care about in deciding whether to adopt/foster or how to be a better parent.


Web Resources:

Young Children:

Gender Spectrum is an organization that works to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens by creating resources, making referrals, and providing support.  Read more on supportive parenting of a gender expansive child.

Older Children and Adolescents:

The Trevor Project is a leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LBGTQ youth under 25 years of age. Check out their online handbook for LGBTQ youth and a myriad of other resources.


They, She, He, Me Free to Be!
by Maya Christina Gonzalez & Matthew Sg
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
A picture book about pronouns and gender fluidity.

Rainbow: A First Book of Pride
by Michael Genhart
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
A book that celebrates LGBTQ+ families by exploring the colorful meaning behind each rainbow stripe.

Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?
by Sarah Savage
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
A gender-neutral protagonist imparts a message about identity and expression.

And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
A story of two penguins who create a non-traditional family.

The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are
by Kelly Storck
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
Activities designed for transgender and gender non-conforming children to help them explore their identity and discover unique ways to navigate gender expression at home, in school, and with friends.

Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle
by Robin Stevenson
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
A book that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community’s diversity while recognizing the victories of the past 50 years and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

The ABC’s of LGBTQ+
by Ashley Mardell
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This book provides an overview of the various terms and topics related to LGBT+ issues which may be useful for adults and youth alike. A great resource for questioning teens or anyone who wants to learn how to talk about gender and sexual identity.

Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens (2nd Edition)
by Kathy Belge & Marke Bieschke
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
A helpful and sometimes humorous guide for LGBTQ teens coming out to friends and family. This book explores navigating a social life while challenging bigotry and homophobia.

The Queen’s English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases
by Chloe O. Davis
Recommended for Young Adults
This colorful guide provides insights into modern gay slang, queer theory terms, and colloquialisms related to LGBTQIA+ culture.

Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children
by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD & Edgardo Menvielle, MD
Recommended for Adults
Authors offer a framework for parents, clinicians, and educators to support gender-nonconforming children.


Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen
Hosted by Heather Hester
Recommended for Parents or Caregivers
This podcast provides parenting perspectives on the many issues which may arise when raising an LGBTQ teenager.


Web Resources:

Young Children:

  • The Conscious Kid is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.

Older Children and Adolescents:


Woke Baby
by Mahogany Browne
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
Woke Baby is a board book which provides brief sentences empowering babies about racial justice.

A Kids Book About Racism
by Jelani Memory
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
This book talks simply about racism and provides the reader with language for children of all ages to explore this topic.

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
This book details the many reasons we may feel different and being able to feel comfortable celebrating those differences. Also available in Spanish.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
Edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This book is comprised of poems, prose, and art featuring more than 50 diverse, award-winning children’s authors and illustrators.

This Book is Anti-Racist
by Tifany Jewell
Recommended for ages 15 – 18
This book encourages reflection and learning about the origins of racism in order to move the reader to take action.

by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Recommended for Young Adults
This book explores the history of racism and what we can do to be actively anti-racist.


Code Switch
Hosted by National Public Radio
Recommended for Adolescents, Young Adults, and Adults
Journalists of color tackle the issues of race head on with special guests. Tune in for weekly episodes.

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