Q: School is starting in a few days...we’re excited and anxious – both! Do you have any book suggestions to calm our anxieties?
A: It sounds like today you’re looking for ideas about the emotions you & your child are feeling, rather than the facts of what will happen the first week of school. You can read about either, or both…This time of year gives parents and children a great opportunity to practice recognizing your own & others’ feelings, identifying them, expressing them, and responding to them.
When children read books or watch movies that have any emotional content, they learn about those emotions. Even if it's just one feeling, they learn how to identify it, express it, and some possible ways to respond to it. Even if the characters in the story respond badly, children can learn what not to do!
Educators and psychologists expressed enthusiasm for the movie Inside Out - not solely for its entertainment value, but as a tool to explain how human being process emotions. Younger children might still like to listen to Rosey Grier singing It's Alright to Cry - from the early 1970s! - or the whole album.
Like any life transition, starting school can bring up strong emotions. Helping your child understand her thoughts and feelings -- and explore the thoughts and feelings of others -- helps her grow and understand. Reading books together gives you a way to start a conversation and find out how you can support your child.
Children each have their own point of view, and their own inner thoughts to sift through. The themes within back-to-school stories often include important life lessons about some or all of the following:
- Being a friend
- Getting along with new people
- Accepting differences
- Mending relationships with difficult people
- Protecting yourself from dangerous people
- Calming general anxiety
- Conquering specific fears
- Facing new situations
- Accepting separation from loved ones
- Celebrating accomplishments (your own & others')
- Being ready for and open to learning
So, here are my updated lists of school stories, categorized roughly by the level of school your child is attending. You can print a list in order by author to make it easy to find, or come in and ask one of us to help you find the right book for your family:
Even if the book you read together doesn’t match your own thoughts and feelings, it could spark a discussion that helps clarify your observations, or helps your child relate to the other students she meets. The most important thing is to make time to talk to and listen to your child.
In the Comments below, would you share your feelings about the First Day of School – one you remember, or one you anticipate? And if you have a question you'd like us to address, click on the button: