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:

All Ages:

  • PACER’s Kids Against Bullying is a website designed for elementary school students to learn about bullying prevention, engage in activities, and be inspired to take action. The teen-centered website follows the same structure with an encouraging community.


I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
by Kerascoët
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
This book explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly and how a single act of kindness can lead an entire community to help.

by  Kathryn Otoshi
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
An engaging story for young children based on colors and numbers. Blue, the “quiet color” gets bullied by “Hot Head Red.” The other colors feel sorry for Blue, but never stand up to Red until “One” comes along.

You, Me, and Empathy
by Jayneen Sanders
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations, and main character Quinn to model the meaning of empathy.

The Survival Guide to Bullying
by Aija Mayrock
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This book covers everything from cyber bullying to how to deal with fear and create the life you dream of having.

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Anthology edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carries Jones
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 and Adults
Today’s top teen and young adult authors come together to share their stories about bullying as bystanders, victims, and bullies themselves in this deeply personal collection. Includes resources for teens, educators, and parents.

Bullying Scars: The Impact on Adult Life and Relationships
by Ellen Walser deLara
Recommended for Young Adults
This book describes childhood bullying from the vantage point of victims, bullies, and bystanders who are now adults. The book discusses how lives have been changed, and explores the range of reactions adults exhibit.


Anti-Bullying 101
Hosted by anti-bullying expert Jim Burns
Recommended for Young Adults and Adults
Anti-bullying expert Jim Burns provides information to manage difficult situations that involve harassment and intimidation and strategies to deal with bullying that is plaguing or schools, families, and communities epidemically.


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.

Mental Health

Web Resources:

Young Children:

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings is a downloadable App for children to play, sing, and learn about feelings with their friend Daniel Tiger, from the PBS KIDS series, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Older Children and Adolescents:

Kids Helpline is an Australian-born website that provides useful information and tools for kids of all ages related to mental health, mental illness, and wellness. Note, the phone line is not available for people in the U.S.

Teen and Young Adult:

To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.


The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders.


Making Faces
by Abrams Appleseed
Recommended for ages 0 – 3 years old
This book introduces five essential expressions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, and silly. Each expression is introduced with a large image of a baby’s face.

The Way I Feel
by Janan Cain
Recommended for ages 4 – 6 years old
This book introduces different emotions with illustrations, clear language, and relatable explanations.

A Kids Book About Depression
by Kileah McIlvain
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
This book highlights the complexities of depression and what getting help might look like.

Are u ok? A Guide to Caring For Your Mental Health
by Kati Morton, LMFT
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
This book walks readers through commonly asked questions about mental health and the process of getting help.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices to Start the Conversation about Mental Health
by Kelly Jensen
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
33 actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer stories, perspectives, and art to explore various topics related to mental health and mental illness.

You Are Not a Rock
by Mark Freeman
Recommended for Young Adults
A prescriptive and positive guide, illustrated with line drawings, making the case that mental well-being, like physical health, can be strengthened over time with specific techniques.


Mental Illness Happy Hour
Hosted by Paul Gilmartin
Recommended for Young Adults and Adults
This weekly online podcast interviews comedians, artists, friends, and the occasional doctor to explore mental illness, trauma, addiction, and negative thinking.


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.


Web Resources:

Older Children and Adolescents:

  • Teen Line provides emotional support to  youth through education and support. This organization has a national hotline, community outreach and online support.


Read descriptions carefully as many of these resources are workbooks.

Why Did Daddy End His Life? Why Did He Have to Die? A Suicide Bereavement Book for Children and Parents
by Samantha Pekh
Recommended for ages 3 – 6 years old
This book guides children through emotions that may be difficult to express and ends by reassuring children that they can survive the pain of their loss.

After a Suicide Death: An Activity Book for Grieving Kids
The Dougy Center
Recommended for ages 7 – 10 years old
This interactive activity book provides drawing activities, puzzles, stories, and advice from other kids and helpful suggestions for how to navigate the grief process after a suicide death.

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel
by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul
Recommended for ages 11 – 14 years old
Inspired by the hit Broadway show, this authentic coming-of-age story about friendship and family features grief, anxiety, loneliness, and connection.

How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me
by Susan Rose Blauner
Recommended for ages 15 – 18 years old
Author, Susan Blauner, sends a message of hope and a program for action as she shares her own experience with feelings and fantasies surrounding suicide.

Reasons to Stay Alive
by Matt Haig
Recommended for Young Adults
In his memoir, Matt Haig provides both honesty and humor while speaking from his present self to his past self about his struggles with depression.

Robbie’s Hope Adult Handbook
Robbie’s Hope
Recommended for Adults
Robbie’s Hope has the goal of empowering teens to reduce suicide rates. The site has a variety of tools to support this goal including resources for adults and teens, handbooks, and ideas for getting involved with this movement.


Depresh Mode
Hosted by John Moe
Recommended for Young Adults/Adults
Join artists, entertainers, and experts in conversations about what it is like to live with in interesting mind. No shame, no stigma, and more laughs that you might expect.

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