Back to School Transitions: Creating a Coping Toolbox

July 7, 2022

The transition back to school can be an emotional time for your child. One thing you can do to make the transition easier is to help your child create a coping toolbox. Helping your child recognize her skills and resources can empower her to cope effectively with the challenges and emotions that come with a new school year.  

What exactly is a coping toolbox?  

A coping toolbox is a small collection of resources your child can use to deal with things that come up in his daily life. Depending on the age of your child, a toolbox can be a container with physical items in it, or simply a mental list. The important thing is to help your child recognize that he can cope with any feeling or situation that arises.  

How do I decide what to include in a coping toolbox? 

Determine what types of emotions your child is most likely to experience, or which ones are the most challenging to deal with. If your child experiences anxiety, for example, his toolbox might include a small, soft item he could stroke to calm himself down. Or if your child frequently feels frustrated by the challenges of schoolwork, her toolbox could contain a drawing of a balloon, to remind her to take some deep breaths, filling up her belly like a balloon with each one.  

Once you’ve figured out what types of emotions your child might need a coping toolbox for, choose three or four tools to put in it. These might be resources (like sharing their feelings with a teacher), techniques (like giving themselves a bear hug), or items (such as a fidget toy). It’s a good idea to get your child’s input on what coping strategies they would like to include in their toolbox.  

How can I help my child use their coping toolbox? 

Choose an item or create a reminder for each strategy in your child’s coping toolbox. It’s a good idea to check with the teacher beforehand to make sure you select appropriate items that won’t be distracting to your child’s classmates. By letting your child’s teacher know about the toolbox, you not only ensure that the things you select will be school-appropriate, but you also give the teacher an opportunity to help your child cope well with each school day.  

Remember, depending on your child’s needs you can use meaningful items as tools, or simple reminders like cards with a word or picture to help them remember what their coping strategies are. Work with your child’s teacher to figure out a good place to keep the toolbox at school. Maybe your child can keep his toolbox in his locker or desk, or maybe she can store it in a specific pocket of her backpack.  


A coping toolbox can help kids of all ages. They can learn how to handle emotions, develop good coping strategies, and test out important life skills. Creating a coping toolbox is a great way to help your child utilize their unique abilities as they make the transition back to school. If you feel that you could use some guidance in understanding your child’s emotions or helping them develop appropriate coping strategies, please get in touch with a team member at one of our locations in Portland, Eugene, or Corvallis. We’re happy to help. 

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