Those first school weeks: How to support your sensitive child through life’s big transitions


Tears at the school gate, separation anxiety, unfairly labelled “the naughty kid”…. nothing quite like a distressing drop off to remove the joy from your career/care juggle.

1 in 9 children are anxious.

Anxiety is the most common health burden in girls aged 5-14 years old, and second (behind asthma) in boys. The daily stressors of our busy lives means anxiety in children is on the rise and it’s taking a toll on families. Unfortunately, in our post pandemic era, support for parents is increasingly difficult to come by.

One parent faced with these challenges was Dr Kathryn Hackman. Her 4-year-old had no problems riding his bike head first down the stairs (!) but needed a little extra time, assistance and kindness to feel prepared and confident to tackle new events, such as starting kindergarten. Kathryn learned to help her son by writing him personalised stories that explain the everyday situations he would encounter, along with all the ‘life rules’ we adults take for granted. Soon, she was inundated with requests by other parents to create stories for their children! Cue the realisation that many children may benefit from a little preparation.

The concept of teaching through social stories was originally developed to assist autistic children but has been expanded as a useful tool for all children who are faced with change, to help reduce anxiety. Social stories are brief descriptions of a situation, event or activity, written from the child’s perspective. These stories are an effective way of teaching children about what will happen, helping them imagine how things will look and feel.

So, in collaboration with a paediatric psychologist and occupational therapist (who are also mothers), Kathryn founded the Courageous Kids app. It’s specifically designed to build your child’s confidence and resilience through games, avatars and customisable illustrations.

The story library covers topics from starting preschool and school, to going to a party, to going to the dentist. And the best part? These personalised stories work. As Kathryn says, on his first day at school her son crept up to her and whispered: “You can go now, Mum!” 

“We use this app to support our son, who finds change difficult. The way it can be customised is brilliant. He truly feels the stories are written for him and asks to look at them many times over. We can see the improvement in his anxiety levels that has come from using the app” – Kate Connell, mother.

If you’re searching for tools to reduce your child’s anxiety, increase their confidence with new experiences, and bring back your own sense of joy as you navigate your career/care juggle this year, you can try the Courageous Kids app for free here. You also might like to explore Grace Papers FREE 2023 LIVE Coaching line up, brimming with themes designed to fill your toolbox with strategies to guide you as you navigate life’s special moments such as these.

Supporting you in the moments that matter.