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Anna Freud and Laura Henry-Allain MBE publish book to help young children talk about mental health

Free resource from the leading mental health charity and award-winning children’s author aims to show that feeling down some days is normal.


Anna Freud and Laura Henry-Allain MBE have published a free digital book to help educators, parents and carers have important discussions about mental health with young children.

‘Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad’, which was written by Laura Henry-Allain and illustrated by Zenovia Grant, tells the story of 3-year-old Jackson and early years teacher Bilal. When Bilal notices that Jackson – who is normally ‘the fizziest, whizziest, most giggly, wriggly boy in the world’ - is acting differently, we see them explore his emotions together, with the help of some friends.

The story also champions diversity and represents children and an adult from different backgrounds, touching on gender, race, and disability. Ensuring all children see themselves represented in conversations about mental health was a priority for the team due to inequalities in accessing support.1

Alongside the story, there is a foreword and guide from experts at mental health charity Anna Freud to help adults use the resource. This includes tips to help young children express and make sense of their emotions, the importance of accepting and validating children’s emotional experiences, and ways of using all the senses to soothe.

Half of mental health conditions start before the age of 14 and many of these develop in the early years (ages 0 to 5).1 The charity says this means it’s important to have strategies like those in the book to support the wellbeing of young children.

Dr Abi Miranda, Head of Early Years and Prevention at Anna Freud, said:

“Supporting young children to be mentally healthy is vital for their development and happiness; it helps them to play, learn, imagine, and enjoy life. A key part of this is understanding that being down some days is normal, and we want this unique book to give adults the tools to spark important conversations about sadness and other feelings.

“There are lots of misconceptions about young children’s mental health and wellbeing, which we hope to address, including that their feelings are less nuanced. In fact, young children experience a wide range of emotions but may not be able to interpret or describe them all. Their trusted adults can help by, for example, asking lots of questions and using language they can relate to, drawing on things like images, colours and temperatures.

“We often hear from early years educators, parents and carers that they would like more training and support on mental health, so we hope this free, easily accessible book can help to close this gap too.”

Laura Henry-Allain MBE, educationalist, storyteller, producer, consultant and author of Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad, said:

“It was an honour and privilege to be asked by Anna Freud to write a children’s fiction book on how to support children from birth to five with their mental health.

“I have worked in early years for more than 35 years and know that even our youngest children are beginning to navigate their mental health needs.

“The book uses terms and concepts that children will understand, hence the title: Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad. My words have been brought to life with wonderful illustrations by Zenovia Grant.

“My hope is for children to know that their feelings matter and that they can express them freely to adults who understand that it’s never too early to help children with their mental health.”

Through the Thinking Differently manifesto, Anna Freud – which has been supporting children and young people for over seventy years - is calling for a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention to close the gap in children and young people’s mental health. This includes increased support for community-based early intervention services that benefit early years children, such as Family Hubs.

Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad can be downloaded for free on Early Years in Mind, Anna Freud’s online network for early years practitioners.