7 creative ideas to help young children with school anxiety

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Preschoolers or kindergarten students often feel nervous about their first days and weeks of school. Or their first month of school. Even older kids may feel anxious about a new teacher, new friends, or just getting back into a more rigorous schedule after a long and lazy summer. Or maybe they’re feeling anxiety a few weeks into the school year as the reality of fall sets in.

While family discussions should help ease their worries, and there are options like these wonderful mindfulness podcasts made just for anxious kids, I also love the idea of giving kids a little gift that can help ease anxieties about school. I put together seven items here that can serve as thoughtful reminders that you’re thinking of them all day — or simply, you’ve got this!

But hey, whatever works for your kid — that’s the very best idea of all.

– Updated for 2022 –

Related: 5 tested tips for handling separation anxiety, from parents who have been there

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1. A Children’s Book That Addresses Fear and Anxiety

Reading a book that depicts exactly how you’re feeling too can work wonders for kids, helping to easy anxieties and knowing you’re not alone with your questions or fears.

One great option: I Am Not Scared, shown above, is the 2017 release from Geissel-winning author Anna Kang. While not specifically about school, it uses charming illustrations and a lot of humor to make the point that trying new things may not be as scary as we expect, and that friends can help us get through the tough times.

You can also check out this wonderful roundup of wonderful children’s books about anxiety: for kids who are worried about the world around them, including Tom Percival’s  excellent Ruby Finds a Worry.

And at the beginning of Covid, we shared books for kids of alll ages to help with anxiety, including Francesca Sanna’s beautiful book Me and My Fear, because it helps kids understand that fear is actually a good feeling to have.

One more option:Kevin Henkes children’s books are always amazing for capturing how kids feel, and his back-to-school specific book, Wemberly Worried, is no exception. The story of an anxious little mouse who worries about her first day of school is a terrific book to read to your little one the night before the big day. Then tuck it into their backpack or daypack as a reminder that they will totally be A-Okay.

Related:15 of the coolest backpacks for preschool and kindergarten

 

2. A Temporary Tattoo to Remind Them You’re Thinking of Them

A temporary tattoo from Tattly — makers of the coolest temporary ink —that will remind them you are thinking of her while they are at school may be just the trick to give your kid the strength to face the day. It can be a sweet little temporary tattoo heart so they remember just how much you love them; or an inspiring message like “believe” or “Today’s the day!” to help them feel strong and confident. Whatever it is, it will be a cool visual reminder that they will get through the day, and that you’re right along with them in spirit, if not in person.

Related: Sleep anxiety in kids: 5 solutions for sleep issues that really work

3. A Little Toy That Relieves Stress

Pop-It fidget toys are still all the rage and while many classrooms may not allow them, try out the original fidget cubes, which were originally designed to help relieve anxiety. They make a perfect gift to give an anxious child on the first day of school —  small enough to fit in a pocket and still quiet. Just give your child’s teacher a heads up first.

 

4. A Lovie or Special Pillow For Rest Time

Preschoolers who may have naptime at school may do well with a lovie or a special toy or doll from home. Or they may feel comforted by a special nap mat or pillow, especially if they get to pick it out themselves. We love this personalized minkie dot nap pillow for preschoolers, from The Colorful Chicken on Etsy.

If they’ve outgrown their baby toys or toddler lovie, try one that’s a little more “big kid” like a tiny dinosaur or a small Squishmallow.

Related: 7 important reasons that children need baby dolls — boys, too

 

5. An Affordable Parent-Child Jewelry Set

I like the idea of helping your child feel connected to you on their first day of school with a parent-and-me set of some kind, whether you’re handing over half of a BFF heart necklace set, or something like this parent/child wish bracelet set from Bella Elisheva on Etsy. I love it because it’s not mom or dad specific, gender-neutral for kids as well, and really cool.

Related:15 of the coolest backpacks for preschool and kindergarten

6. A Plush Pal Designed to Ease Worries

We first wrote about Worry Eaters Dolls years ago, and they’re still available as the original Sorgenfresser (Worry Eater) Doll on Amazon. Just write down your worry, zip it in the mouth, and it will take it off your hands. (Aw.)

7. A Handwritten Note from You

via Catch My Party

Whether you’re using these free printable lunchbox notes from Catch My Party — or any of the 16 free printable lunchbox notes we shared a while back, don’t overlook the amazing power of your own words on paper. Hey, even a Post-It works! What’s important are the words of love and encouragement you write.  In fact, don’t be surprise if your child ends up with a collection of them that they save until they’ve got kids of their own. Sniff.

Top image: Jordan Whitt on Unsplash



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