Going back to school can be an overwhelming experience, not only for kids but for parents too. New teachers and new classmates can be intimidating. Waking up early, getting ready on time and handling the rigor of a fixed daily schedule presents a range of challenges that add up to stress and anxiety for many.

Parents can teach their kids a variety of techniques to manage their emotions. Often referred to as social/emotional learning, these tools can bring about a calm, confident state of mind and prepare them to learn and grow. 

Morning Gratitude Practice

Start the morning by having your child make a list of 10 things she is grateful for. Do this every day for one week (or longer) without repeating responses and do it together if your child needs a little help getting started. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your perspective can change. Psychologists say that what you focus on grows in your mind. With so many good things, the fears and doubts will be crowded out. Once you get comfortable, perhaps even try making a list of 10 things your child likes about school.

Morning Affirmations Practice

Parents can also share a set of affirmations with their children every morning, either while getting ready, eating breakfast or on the car ride to school. Examples might include statements such as “I am brave. I am kind. I am creative. My teacher is always there to help me. My parents love and support me.” This is also a great opportunity to incorporate prayer, meditation or other rituals of your family faith tradition.  

Banish School Worries with Worry Stones

You can create worry stones with a simple salt dough recipe.

Ingredients: flour, salt, warm water, gel food coloring, glitter

Directions: Mix two parts flour and salt in a bowl. Add one part warm water and stir it to create a doughy paste. If it is too dry, add a little more water until a dough is formed. Add color to the dough with the food coloring and then mix in the glitter. Turn the dough into a worry-away tool by having your child form the dough into small cubes and indent the sides a little bit with her thumbs.

How to Use the Worry Stone:

  • Model for your child how to gently rub the sides of the stone with her thumb and forefinger to calm herself down when she is feeling worried. Encourage your child to keep her stone in her pocket and use it when she is in a situation that brings her worry (such as starting a new school year).
  • Talk with your child about her worries and help her to name them.


Extend-A-Care YMCA Afterschool Child Care programs provide safe, enriching and educational programs for elementary students at more than 60 area schools. Y Afterschool programs incorporate SEL practices into daily routines to help kids develop healthy emotional responses to everyday situations. For more information about Extend-A-Care YMCA programs visit www.eacymca.org.


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