Social Stories to Support Your Child through Transitions

Social Stories to Support Your Child Through Transitions

22 September 2022 • Words by Samantha Weitzberg 2 mins

A social story is an incredible way to shape a conversation around your child’s most pressing needs or anxieties and support them through transitions. Similar to a storybook, a social story presents ideas and themes to your child in a meaningful way. Unlike a regular book, however, a social story is personalized. It refers to your child by name and may include photos or drawings of them. For example, as an early childhood teacher I have used photographs of the children within our daily schedule. This helped to provide visuals for major transitions, such as lunch to nap. Although social stories were originally developed as a tool to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, all children may benefit from an illustrated breakdown of a new or challenging process. For instance, riding the school bus for the first time.

Social stories can be reinforced and referenced throughout the day. At the beginning of the year, social stories provide students with an understanding of what to expect. For students experiencing separation anxiety, a story using transitional words, including “first, “next,” and “then,” can provide the child with a sense of order.

To create a teaching story for your child, focus on one specific worry they are having at the moment. When you have a conversation about this specific fear with your child, provide a safe and calm space to allow them to unpack their worries and build up their anxiety toolkit. Listen carefully without assumptions, as the details of their worry or fear may not be what you expect. Following the conversation, use drawing materials to outline an experience from start to finish. 

Here is an example of a scenario of riding the bus:

  1. Arrive at the bus stop with a backpack and school supplies. Wait with a grown-up until the bus arrives.
  2. Bus arrives! Wave to the bus and say good–bye to [the caregiver]. 
    • Note: You may choose to have a good-bye ritual such as a big hug or repeating a reassuring phrase about when you’ll see each other next.
  3. Walk onto the bus and greet the bus driver.
  4. Find a seat and ride to school. 
    • Note: During this step, depending on your child’s comfort level, you might talk about greeting peers or taking out a comfort item such as a stuffed animal, small toy, or book.

Try a Moshi Moment

The Art of Being Apart with Linton

This Moshi Moment can help you support your child through an anxious transition and major change to their routine. Listen to the track first, and as you listen consider the takeaways you have as a caregiver. How do these takeaways support you in creating a social story for your child? After listening to the track, bring your attention to the fear or worry your child shares. You can use the conversation guide and activity for The Art of Being Apart to develop a social story and other strategies for when you and your child are separated or facing a significant change.

Samantha Weitzberg

Samantha Weitzberg, RYCT, RYT, is an early childhood teacher, yoga instructor, and mindfulness leader living in New York. She is also a first-time mom to a baby boy, but has been a puppy mom for a while.