Helping Children Cope With Going Back to School
The end of summer is upon us which means, for many of us, school is right around the corner. Last minute vacation get-aways, getting the kids (and yourself!) to bed a little earlier, and the ritual of buying school supplies, clothes and picking out the perfect backpack are what many families are found doing these last few weeks.
With all those things happening, we may sometimes forget that our children may have thoughts and feelings about going back to school as well as how to cope with them. Some may feel excited for a new year, some may be nervous about the workload or new kids and teachers, and some may be sad about leaving mom and dad. Whatever the feeling is, our kids are experiencing them and may need reminders about how to handle those feelings or about the skills they already have.
So, what can parents do to help their children when they are experiencing these big feelings about going back to school?
One example is an art therapy activity that is helpful for kids is a flip-book of coping skills he or she can use.
This flip-book can be taken with them to and from school and is small enough to fit in their backpacks. The book serves as a reminder of the skills they have or skills they can use when faced with a particular issue.
For example, a child who gets separation anxiety may find these useful to have in a backpack for bus rides to school or to use during the school day (Thomas, p.39). Some ideas for this child’s coping skills book may be: take 5 deep breaths, write or doodle in a journal, and massage or rub your hands.
When creating this flip-book:
(1) The first thing to do is to come up with a list of coping skills that relates to the issue your child is having (see “Websites” in the “Suggested Reading” section for ideas or for pre-made coping skills cards & lists).
(2) Then, your child can make cards out of card stock for each coping skill. They can write the skill on the card and decorate it by drawing a picture or using magazine pictures and words to make it unique.
(3) When they are done, punch a hole in the upper left hand corner of each card and,
(4) String them all together with yarn and beads or a key ring. Laminating each card also helps preserve the life of them, too.
Now, your child has a set of portable coping skills or reminders to help them through their school day.
These coping skills are also great practice for kids as they move through their lives (and not only for school). Coping skills teach children how to regulate their emotions and help them become better prepared to handle stressors and other situations that life throws their way. Sitting with your child and reviewing coping skills regularly teaches them self-care and value for their emotions…and, are great reminders for parents, too.
Suggested Reading and Websites:
Creative Coping Skills for Children: Emotional Support through Arts and Crafts Activities by: Bonnie Thomas, 2009.
For Free Pre-Made Coping Skills Cards:
For Free Coping Skills Lists: