One question that comes up frequently is “How do you deal with difficult topics in children’s books?”
There’s no doubt that writing a children’s book about serious subject matter is hard, but it’s also incredibly important. While most children’s books have a light-hearted tone, we can also use picture books to guide our children into difficult conversations.
Maybe you want to write a book about coping with grief, caring for mental health, or discussing abuse. But how do you address topics like that with children?
What to Consider When Writing Difficult Topics for Children
Is this message appropriate for children?
You want to make sure the overall message of your book is appropriate for children. For serious topics, it’s usually best to keep things general. Avoid including details when depicting potentially traumatic events.
Instead focus on the characters' feelings and conversations. ALWAYS provide hope for the survivor of your story.
Am I treating difficult topics with respect and consideration?
Remember that some of your readers may be dealing with your subject matter first-hand. It’s important to make sure you talk about difficult topics in a respectful way. This includes doing the research necessary to ensure you’re representing the subject matter appropriately.
It’s essential to make sure your story empowers those who are coping with your topic. Uplift and encourage the survivor in your book.
Consider using animal characters instead of children.
It’s always a good idea to distance the reader from difficult topics.
One way to do this is to use analogy. You might make your main characters non-human or personify the struggle your character is facing.
For example, if a child is lost in the woods, that simply won’t do for young audiences. This brings up all sorts of problems. A reader could ask, “Where are the parents? How did they get lost?"
However, if a rabbit or puppy gets lost in the woods, you can convey the same meaning and dodge the concerns that arise when a child is lost in the forest.
You’ll find authors use this technique often in children’s literature. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many animals in children’s books, this is one very good reason.
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