Lately I’ve been thinking about the kinds of comfort items I can pack to help relieve some of my son’s back-to-school anxiety. He’s starting preschool for the first time (wow!) which means I’m expecting knots in the stomach, sweaty hands, and separation anxiety — and that’s just me!

So I’ve looked around for some comfort items and other ideas that might help soothe my kid’s anxiety — which helps soothe my anxiety.

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Related: The coolest back to school supplies under $10 | Back to school guide 2018

Custom family photo keychain or charm

Comfort items to pack for back-to-school anxiety: Personalized key chain | Memorable Keeps

Sometimes just seeing a parent or sibling your child is missing can reassure an anxious little one. So consider getting a custom photo keychain, like this one from Memorable Keeps, that they can fasten right to a backpack or lunchbox handle. (Bonus: they won’t end up losing it after the first week.)

Related: 25 of the coolest backpacks for preschool, kindergarten and little kids:
Back to School Guide 2018

A daddy-and-me or mommy-and-me t-shirt

Comfort items to pack for back-to-school anxiety: Big dipper little dipper set at Blackbird Supply

One way to help your kid feel connected to you even after you drop them off at school is for you to wear a matching set of tees that first day, like this cool big dipper little dipper set at from Blackbird supply, that we included in a roundup of favorite daddy-and-me t-shirt sets around Father’s Day this year.

Matching bracelets or BFF charm necklaces

Comfort items: Mommy and me bracelet set helps comfort anxious kids going back to school | via House of Charms on Etsy

I love this idea so much: Get a subtle matching mommy-and-me bracelet set like this one at House of Charms. (I think they’re awesome for both little boys and girls.) Great way for them to look down at their wrist any time and think of you — thinking of them.

Valentine's Day BFF jewelry: Milk and Cookies Friendship Necklace by Jade Angela Designs

You could also try a matching pair of BFF necklaces. We put together an entire roundup of ideas that go beyond the classic broken heart, including this sweet (ha) Milk and Cookies Friendship Necklace Set by  Jade Angela Designs on Etsy.

A children’s book about facing fear 

Comfort items  to pack for back-to-school anxiety: I Am Not Scared: Great book by Anna Kang to help little kids ease all kinds of anxieties

Consider spending a few nights before school starts addressing first-day-of-school jitters with an appropriate book. Georgette included I am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang in last year’s round-up of ideas to help with back to school anxiety, and I think it’s a great one to help with any scary hurdle a kid faces. Then, pack it up in your kid’s new preschool or kindergarten backpack, so that it conjures that memory of you two reading together.

Comfort items  to pack for back-to-school anxiety: Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Another helpful book, specifically for kids who are worried about being different or standing out from the other kids, is Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna. It’s a favorite of our associate editor Kate, and she always picks great books.

Related: 12 motivational back-to-school printables to send kids off with a smile.

A photo of your family pet

Comfort items: Photo of a favorite pet is one way to help comfort kids who are anxious in those early days of schoolPhoto by Alexandru Zdrobău via Unsplash

My son can often be found hugging our cat for comfort. (And occasionally terrifying him with an oven mitt, but that’s a different story). So I think he’d be especially soothed during those early days of school by having a picture of our family pet that he can hold onto and show his friends.

A friendly temporary tattoo

Comfort items  to pack for back-to-school anxiety: Tattly temporary tattoos

If the kid you’re sending off is a little shy, a funny tattoo could help them strike up conversations or just remind them that they are loved. Our friends at Tattly offer a range, from hilarious to empowering to sweet. Try the “You Are Magic” unicorn tattoo, a simple “love” typographical tattoo or a range of goofy doodle tattoos made just for kids. It would be a fun surprise to break out right before you head out in the morning.

A mindfulness stone

Comfort items  to pack for back-to-school anxiety: Mindfulness monster from My Story Stones

If you’ve got a kid with worries, giving them something to feel in their pocket can help them settle them down. I like this mindfulness monster stone from My Story Stones on Etsy, which comes with a set of questions to inspire kids to get in touch with their emotions. It’s a great way to self-soothe at any age.

A favorite stuffed animal 

Comfort items to pack for back-to-school anxiety: A favorite (or new!) plush animal like these felted dogs from To the Market

Kids aren’t too big to pack along a small stuffed friend, especially when nap time is still part of their school’s daily schedule. I love these handmade felted dogs To the Market that just happen to support an amazing cause. Plus they’re small enough to hold in a hand without drawing much attention.

If your child has a slightly larger (but still backpack-sized) stuffed friend, consider packing that very one. My son cuddles with this sheep lovey at night.  Pro tip though: If it’s a very very special comfort item, consider buying a duplicate so you can still keep one safely at home.

Or, check out the custom stuffed animals from Petsies that can be made to look like your real live pet. It could be a soothing reminder of who’s waiting for your child at the door at the end of the day.

A happy lunch surprise 

Easy Valentine's Day lunch box ideas perfect even for the last minute. Phew! | Edible Cupid's Arrows at Fork and Beans

If you love the idea of a cupid’s arrow, but would rather skip the sugar — and are willing to use just a few more than two ingredients — try the Edible Cupid’s Arrows at Fork and Beans. These are ridiculously cute and, actually, perfectly well rounded for lunch with crackers, cream cheese, veggie and pretzel. Yum!

Food is the love language of choice in my family, so lunchtime presents ample opportunity to shower my kid in affection. Consider packing a favorite treat or a heart-shaped dessert to add some extra love into the school day. How great are these Edible Cupid’s Arrows from Fork and Beans? So easy and adorable — what a nice surprise!

A surprise card or note from home

Free printable lunch box notes from Tiny Me

The truth is, you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to do one special thing to help sooth back-to-school anxiety in kids. Something as simple as a handwritten note on an index card, or motivational printable note can go a long way. We’ve also featured lots (and lots!) of free printable lunchbox notes over the years, like the ones shown here from Tiny Me. Don’t forget to add your own signature or silly doodle on the back!

Top image: Joseph Gonzalez via Unsplash