Seeing a child upset and anxious is stressful for everybody. So, we wanted to share a handy little tool for handling separation anxiety, and a tactile coping mechanism to help kids when they feel worried, unsure or sad. This is one of the simple tools and activities we promote in our book, Ready for School which you’ll find in our tips section written ‘for the grown-ups’ at the back of each book.
For those that are thinking about their child starting school, getting back to school after lockdown, moving schools, or just handling separation anxiety, or anxiety in general, this can be a helpful and easy thing you can do that empowers kids with a sense of control over the situation they’re in. It’s a creative little activity you can do together as you find your ‘Smile Stones’ and decorate them, which also associates that happy memory with the stone itself.
How to make a ‘Smile Stone’
1. Go out and choose a nice stone each that feels good in the hand and fits in the pocket.
2. Spend time together decorating your stones — it could be a heart, a drawing of your family, or painting your stones in your favourite colours.
3. Put your stones somewhere close at hand! When you or your child need to feel connected to the love and support you offer one another, you can give it a good squeeze.
These are your ‘Smile Stones’. Your child can keep their stone with them in their pocket for when they feel anxious, worried, sad or unsure. When your child needs to feel close to you and remember that love from home, they can give their ‘Smile Stone’ a squeeze and know that wherever you are, you’re thinking of them, you have their back, and you love them no matter what.
How it helps
In a moment your child might feel out of control of their feelings, they can physically do something to give themselves a greater sense of control in the situation and be reminded of your love and support.
We use this strategy at home when we have to spend time apart. I love seeing the ‘Smile Stone’ that’s been decorated for me by my daughter rolling around at the bottom of my handbag and she keeps hers next to her bed for when she wants to use it.
What we love about this idea, is that it’s simple, practical, tactile and stimulating to the senses, which brings kids back into their bodies if they need to calm down after having a stress reaction.
Making the tricky job of parenting a little bit easier
The My Big Moments Ready for School book helps kids to prepare for starting school, preschool, or transition into a new school environment with confidence. In light of the disruption to orientation weeks for some schools, Ready for School can play a vital role in helping kids feel safe and secure as they head into that unfamiliar school environment.
The book helps them engage in the preparation process, learn about what to expect and figure out what to do when they need a little extra support. Ready for School helps parents and caregivers open important conversations with their children about their next big moment so they can provide the love and support they need.
We’ve put this book together with consultation from our child development experts to make the tricky job of parenting that little bit easier. We hope that now, more than ever, it can relieve some of the anxiety of entering into a new and unfamiliar situation as families and schools continue to adapt in the face of major disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.