Morning Rituals, Part 4 – Help Calm Before-School Anxiety with Pocket Rocks

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Some mornings it’s easy to get kids out the door. Other days, they might be worried, tired, sad, or angry. Today’s post features a morning ritual to ease your child’s before-school anxiety and nurture your connection in the process.

Looking for other positive ways to start the day? Check out other posts in the morning rituals series!

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Before-School Anxiety is Common

Our kiddos get anxious about going to school for all sorts of reasons.

They don’t understand the new math unit.

They keep getting in trouble for talking too much.

That super annoying kid budged in front of them again yesterday. (Or “cut,” as my NY-raised husband would say — I didn’t know “budging” wasn’t a universal term until I met him!)

Obtained via Pexels

While some issues require parent intervention, most don’t.

We can provide reassurance and emotional coaching, but the real confidence-building comes when kids learn how to face challenges themselves.

Pocket Rocks to Ease Anxiety

I’ve discovered one of the best ways to handle my kids’ minor school-related worries is to reinforce their belief in themselves — the belief that they’re strong, competent problem solvers who will find ways to manage hard things.

And that’s where the morning ritual of pocket rocks came from.

When one of my boys hasn’t slept well and worries how he’ll function at school, I can give him a rock that says “energy” or “You Can Do It!”

If he’s scared about a test, he can grab a rock with the word “confidence.”

When he’s facing a situation where he needs to speak up, he might take a rock inscribed “courage.”

Once the rock is chosen, I infuse it with some mama love (more on that below).

Then into his pocket or backpack the rock goes, reinforcing my son’s belief in himself that he will find the energy, confidence, or courage he needs that day.

Supplies for Making Pocket Rocks

It’s even easier than I thought to paint these rocks — ditch the brushes and bottles of paint and just use the markers!

It’s super easy to make your own pocket rocks! You’ll only need four things:

  1. Small, smooth rocks
    You’ll want rocks that are about 1-2 inches in size – big enough for word painting, small and light enough to easily carry in a pocket or backpack.

    If you have the time and opportunity, it would be fun to collect your own rocks for this project! Venture with your kids to a river or shoreline, which is your best bet for finding small, smooth, easy-to-paint rocks.

  2. Acrylic paint markers
    I’ve linked to the set I used and loved. It worked great to have the wide tip for coloring the rock surface and the narrow tip for writing words or drawing little shapes. I also liked having the big range of colors.

    If you’re looking for a more inexpensive option, this is a basic set that has great reviews.

    I highly recommend using paint markers versus paint brushes — see my side note on that below.

  3. Acrylic sealer
    Sealer spray keeps the paint from chipping — an essential step!

  4. Parchment paper to protect your painting surface

How to Make Pocket Rocks

Choose your inscriptions.

What words, phrases, or images will help calm your child’s before school anxiety and give them a little extra boost of joy or confidence?

Besides positive emotions, consider making some rocks with family member names/titles. Your child will feel good carrying “Mom,” “Dad,” or a sibling in their pocket when they’re wishing they could just spend the day with their people. 🙂

Here’s a list of ideas to get you started! (The grammarian in me is bothered by this list’s hodgepodge of verbs, nouns, AND adjectives, but I’m going to assume, dear reader, you’re not as neurotic about such things.)

  • Assertive
  • Believe
  • Bold
  • Brave
  • Calm
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Dare
  • Determined
  • Focus
  • Fun
  • Grit
  • Hope
  • I Love You
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Open
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Powerful
  • Strong
  • Trust
  • You Can Do It!

Protect your painting surface.

Grab a big piece of parchment paper or a drop cloth to protect your work surface.

Paint the rocks.

Dive in!

How many layers of paint you’ll need will depend on both the shade of the rock and the paint color you’re using.

I found that paint markers formed a nice, even, thick layer of paint that sometimes only required one coat. Lighter shades might require two.

(Side note: at first I followed a complicated process that involved brushing on layers of primer, followed by layers of background color, followed finally by the markers to paint on the words. All with drying time in between coats! I found out that elaborate process was totally unnecessary — instead, go straight to the markers.)

Allow the rocks to dry between layers and before applying a new color.

Use the narrow tip to write the words.

If you screw up, no big deal! Use your finger or a cloth to wipe off as much paint as you can. Then touch up the background, let it dry, and try again.

Seal the Paint

As a rock painting novice, I didn’t realize how easily the paint would chip off.

I completed a cute little “Love” rock only to find it missing specks of red paint mere hours later. It happened just from normal handling.

Womp womp

That’s when I learned the acrylic sealer step is essential. You want your nice sentiments to last!

Find a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. The directions on the side of the can will tell you appropriate temperatures for application and thus whether outside is an option.

Again lay out parchment paper to protect your surface.

Then position the can about a foot above your rocks and spray them with a nice even coat of sealer.

Allow them to dry, then apply another layer or two of sealer.

You’ll need to complete this process a couple of times if you’ve painted both the front and back of the rocks.

Put Your Rocks in a Bowl Near the Door

Now your rocks are painted, sealed, and ready to go out into the world!

Place them in a pretty bowl near where your kids exit the house for school.

Choices, choices

They may think to grab a rock on their own — perfect. Or you might hand them one you think is suited to calm that day’s particular variety of before school anxiety.

Once a rock is selected, give it a love squeeze, maybe with your eyes shut. Or lightly kiss the hand holding the rock. Or hold the rock near your heart for a moment.

Do whatever makes you feel like you’ve infused that little stone with mama love and power. 🙂

Then give it to your child and send them off into the world.

If the rock comes back homes at the end of the day, great! Back into the bowl it goes.

If not, also great! Because that likely means some other kiddo, school staff member, or neighbor is going to come across your positive sentiment.

Plus it gives you the excuse to paint more rocks! I’m not a skilled painter, but this project requires virtually no skill at all. And it’s a lot of fun!

Do you have other morning rituals that help your kids start the day on the right foot? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Happy painting!


Further reading:

Check out Big Life Journal’s recommended steps for a positive morning routine with kids.

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  1. I love this! Will keep it in my back pocket. Thanks having such great, easy to tackle ideas that make everyday life sweeter.

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