The month of August is full of emotional changes as the summer begins to wrap up and families look towards the beginning of a new school year. For many children, this is a time of great excitement worth celebrating. They are meeting new teachers, seeing friends again, and trying different activities. But for others, the anxiety of back-to-school can be quite debilitating. One of my daughters has a lot of anxiety regarding big changes and transitions, so back to school worries at this time is something we have learned to approach thoughtfully.
Back to school after a pandemic
In the fall of 2021, back to school is particularly notable as many children – mine included – have not physically been IN school since March 2020! It’s important to take extra time this year to mitigate any back to school worries your children may be feeling.
Below are a few books our family has found very helpful when gearing up for the new school year and preparing our children for the months ahead. These are best for the preschool through early elementary aged kids (3-7 years old).
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes is a great story for young readers. Follow along with little mouse Wemberly as she starts school, makes a friend, and learns to overcome her constant worries. This was recommended to us by a family member who is a child psychologist, and we are so thankful to have it in our book collection. While the narrative focuses on starting school, the lessons can certainly apply to any new situation your child may find him/herself experiencing.
The Kissing Hand
This is our favorite book for addressing general separation and back to school worries. It includes a sweet tradition we carry on for the first few weeks of school (and every other time the school worries creep up). In this story, author Audrey Penn tells the story of Chester Raccoon. Chester is starting school and filled with tremendous fear at the prospect of spending so much time away from home. Mrs. Raccoon helps to combat his fears by sharing the secret of the kissing hand. It is a tender story whose lesson is sure to stay with your children long beyond the first day of school! As a special bonus, stickers are included with the story so that you can practice “the kissing hand” with your own little ones.
The Invisible String
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst tells about two young siblings who find reasons to worry about separation. It’s a great conversation starter about how we’re never really far from those we love, even when we feel like it. No matter where we are, we are always connected to our loved ones by a giant invisible string. This is also a very poignant story to use for children dealing with more serious issues of separation, including deployed military family members or those grieving the loss of a loved one. If your child’s back to school worries stem from fear of being away from loved ones, definitely give The Invisible String a read!
Llama Llama Misses Mama
Llama Llama Misses Mama is another classic by Anna Dewdney and perfect for the youngest kiddos (Pre-k and K). We read this nearly every night for weeks when my second daughter was beginning school for the first time back in 2018. It’s a great little story for those familiar with Llama Llama. Short and sweet, this rhyming story reinforces that Mama (or other caregiver) will always come back.
How do you help your child with any back to school worries?
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