5 Things Your Kid Needs in Their Emotional Backpack™ as They Head to School


Back-to-school shopping can be fun—right down to selecting a favorite color notebook. That is, if the new Chem teacher hasn’t demanded that all his classroom binders, be navy blue. They might select a new backpack because last year’s is, well…last year’s.

So when choosing the perfect backpack, consider all that goes into it. It’s not only books, writing supplies and a cute make-up bag filled with lip gloss, concealer and other items your child will need throughout the day.

It’s the other stuff.

The unseen emotional tagalongs that wriggle their way into their bag whether you’re paying attention or not. Consider these five tips to say, “K, bye” to emotional heaviness that might weigh your child down.

Here are 5 Must-haves in Your Kid’s Emotional Backpack™:

1. Problem-solving practice: This reminds us of the algebra student who challenged her teacher with: “Why do we need to study algebra when
we’re not going to use it in the real world?” The teacher smiled and stated the student was absolutely correct. “Algebra is used as mere practice to problem solve.”

We encourage you to practice solving would-be scenarios, especially controversial ones with your kids. Role play as a preventative measure, also encourages critical thinking.

Role play what you would do if their best friend is bullied. What if your child is ridiculed for poor academic performance, or embarrassed for coming in late? What if your child is the new kid, or doesn’t know how to deal with the new kid?

What if all their friends are in another homeroom, and your child is left out? How would you help your child problem solve exclusion; the lack of invitation to a party or event?

Peer-pressured into experimenting with drugs? A friend has depression or expressed suicidal threats and asks your teen to promise confidentiality?

Consider step-by-step actions to take to reach a successful result. Share things you have learned to help your kids create new solutions.

Takeaway: #Roleplayworks.

2) Courage: The Cowardly Lion always had it. Your kids have it too. They just need to summon it. Tuck that figurative medal in the backpack, behind the laptop, iPad and iPhone chargers…some sort of talisman that calls up the strength needed to remind them that they have had the bravery needed all along to deal with whatever comes their way.

Takeaway: Pack a transitional object, like a red jasper stone that symbolizes courage and confidence, to remind them that they too have ruby slippers.

3) Unplug and Unclique: The new hot thing? Service to others. Whether your child is entering third grade or their last year in college, encourage them to lift their heads from cellphone texts, and notice what’s around them. When we all unplug, it gives us more focus and connection.

“Don’t allow your child to access technology before school,” says Mike Brooks, PhD. Dr. Brooks also advises: “Technology should not be allowed at meals. If you think about it, meals are sacred. They go back. Historically, breaking bread is communal—It binds us together.”

Is there a new club or group your child can join? With school and community outreach programs, they will meet new people, fulfill their community service requirements, and make themselves, you, and everyone around them, proud.

Takeaway: No better lesson learned than to do something for others. #integritybuilder.

4) Optimism/Positive Mindset: The human brain is wired to have 4 negative thoughts for every 1 positive thought.

Support your child to be conscious of this stat, and help them ramp up optimism. We suggest to reframe those that say, “You can’t do it,” or “This will never work,” with a new mindset: “I’ve got this. This is a minor thing in the bigger picture. I am open to problem-solving this one. This challenge is an opportunity for me to grow and learn.”

The mantra we said to all of our kids: “You have everything you need to know for your situation.” As teens, they rolled their eyes because they had heard it so often. But a little shift in their thinking happened; along with the eye roll, came a subtle smile. And they redirected their mind and heart to a better thought and feeling.

Takeaway: Empower your child to be in charge of their thoughts, feelings and actions.

5) Resilience: When things get dicey, keep going. Consider that a touchy situation is just resiliency training and part of your education.

As the salutatorian of their high school, they may arrive on a competitive campus and discover that they are academically average. Guide your teen to recognize their other strengths, and to focus their energy on building new success narratives for themselves.

Takeaway: Remind them to acknowledge that knot in their stomach and redirect their attention to identifying how great it is to be surrounded by minds and hearts that will challenge and stimulate them as they continue on their journey to be the best version of themselves.

Your child is never too old for a handwritten note from you. When one of our teens got a new backpack, we cleared out the old one that had been jammed—untouched—in the back of their closet since June.

With the start of school, a week away, we unloaded that backpack and found the parental note of encouragement, along with a two-month old peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a Ziploc baggie. (#gross.) While the surprise notes are tucked inside the backpack pocket, they do carry meaning for your child.

The emotional things you pack in your backpack are far more important than the physical stuff. #justsaying.

For more on The Emotional Backpack™: https://poppyandgeoff.com/your-kids-emotional-backpacks/

Are you or your kids having concerns or challenges with the transition back to school? Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation and set everyone’s mind—and heart—at ease.

Poppy and Geoff Spencer, M.S., CPC, are certified counselors, nationally syndicated writers, relationship and parenting experts, certified in Myers Briggs (personality), “Millennial Translators,” national speakers, authors of a #1 Bestseller, One Billion Seconds: There’s Still time to Discover Love, and Podcast hosts. Poppy and Geoff are a highly-credentialed husband and wife team who have made it their life’s passion to help people to immediately identify and address communication barriers. Interviewed on NBC, ABC, CBS, Bustle, Your Tango, and Popsugar, the relationship experts offer two unique and experienced perspectives in their counseling.

Share this Post!
Posted in

Poppy and Geoff Spencer