One of our art therapists at Daystar told me once about an activity she would do regularly with the kids she counseled. She would have them draw a bridge to represent a time of transition in their lives. On one side of the bridge, is what was (normal school, for example). On the other side of the bridge is what’s to come (the new “normal”). Under the bridge is important, too, as it represents what we want to carry over.
What would a bridge look like as we transition back-to-school under new circumstances? What would a bridge look like as our lives transition from quarantine back to a normal life—or at least closer to it? This is a great exercise to do with the kids in your life as they head “back-to-school” (whatever that looks like for you). You could either have each family member do one of their own—or you could do a collective bridge.
On the what was side, have everyone write three things they enjoyed about this time together and three things that made it more challenging.
Then, have them do the same for the what’s to come side.
What are three things they’re looking forward to, and three things they anticipate that might be difficult?
Next, talk about what is under the bridge for each of you. In counseling, we call these transitional objects. For example, the child that carries the same stuffed animal back and forth between his divorced parents’ homes.
What would your family want to carry over from this time at home? More downtime? More time to play games as a family? Have each person, again, come up with three things.
This next season is going to be full of significant transitions. In fact, while anxiety has decreased among kids during this quarantine, my expectation is that it will be back on the rise. For the past several months, kids haven’t had to do so many of the things that make them fearful or overwhelmed . . . school, social events, school, athletic events, did I mention school? All of those things are slowly coming back but chances are, they will not look like they did before . . . at least not for a long time. As if transitions weren’t hard enough, now they will be filled with more new and uncomfortable circumstances.
Transitions are hard—for all of us. Practical and creative expressions of those transitions can help with the process and will remind your kids—and you, that you can do it. I often define anxiety as “an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of yourself.” Your child might need a lot of reminders that they’re brave and strong and capable in the weeks and months to come. In fact, a brave journal might be another practical and creative expression to help in this season. Or even a list of affirmations hanging up at home. Have your child write down times that he or she has been brave, to look back and remember. Anxious kids don’t remember the brave things they’ve done before. They need our help!
It can also be of great help to practice. Have your child role-play the first day of school with you. You be the teacher or friend and let your child start a conversation. Practice wearing a mask for longer periods of time each day until your child is more comfortable with it.
No matter how daunting it may feel, your child can do it. And so can you. Practice and practical strategies make a huge difference. And, as always, the reminder that your child and you are never alone in this. We have a God who goes before us and is with us every step of the way. He has given us all that we—and they—need through Christ and in each other.
Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
SISSY GOFF, M.Ed., LPC-MHSP is the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works alongside her counseling assistant/pet therapist, Lucy the Havanese. Since 1993, she has been helping girls and their parents find confidence in who they are and hope in who God is making them to be, both as individuals and families. Sissy is a sought-after speaker for parenting events and the author of eleven books, including the bestselling Raising Worry-Free Girls and Braver, Stronger, Smarter (for elementary-aged girls). Sissy is a regular contributor to various podcasts and publications including FoxNews.com, as well as her own podcast Raising Boys and Girls. You can find more information and resources at Raising Boys and Girls.