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Getting kids back to school: Inside out


Today we introduce the new Harvard Health book: Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, which can be described as an adult version of the Pixar movie Inside Out. We propose that the human psyche has nine life forces speaking as our inner “voices.” This framework can help optimize many situations and challenges in life, from the routine (like back to school) to the more complex.

Here’s what a child’s nine inner family members might say about going back to school, and how parents might coach them into more harmony and thriving:


Boy, have I had fun. I feel free in the summer. Doing whatever I feel like. Even Mom and Dad are more relaxed. This is all going to end when I go back to school. Yuck!

Mom/Dad:  It’s hard for your Autonomy to give up the freedom of the summer. I feel your pain. What are some ways for you to have autonomy when you are back at school?


Summer is such an amazing time for adventures. School is so boring…

Mom/Dad:  I’m going to miss summer adventures too. How about asking your Adventurer to come up with an idea for a new family adventure once a week/month? I would love to hear your ideas!


Summer is SOOOOO fun. We get to play games and be creative. Why don’t teachers make school more fun. I would wake up on time and not complain about getting ready.

Mom/Dad:  I hear you – creative activities don’t get enough attention at school. Let’s ask your Creative about new ways to be creative on the weekends. I’ll help you get set up.

Standard Setter:  

I really want to get back to school so we can accomplish things. We are a bit lazy in the summer. I’m looking forward to science class. I hear the teacher is really good.

Mom/Dad:  I agree. Back to school is a great time to look forward to new challenges and achievements especially after a nice summer break.


I want to get back to school too. I love learning. But I’m worried about the high pressure to get good grades. Can’t we just focus on learning. I think I would get better grades that way.

Mom/Dad:  That’s interesting. We were thinking that encouraging high grades was helping you. Maybe we can focus more on what you are learning and help you learn even more.

Executive Manager:

I’ve been pretty much ignored all summer. Our bedroom is a mess, clothes and toys everywhere. I keep trying to tell the Creative and Adventurer that we need to spend some time organizing stuff. We need to be organized for school. But they just overrule me.

Mom/Dad:  That’s interesting. You’re not alone. Most kids have an Executive Manager that feels neglected. Would it work to ask for just fifteen minutes on weekend days to get organized? I can help. My Executive Manager would get a boost too.

Body Regulator:  

I LOVE THE SUMMER! Sunshine, running around, swimming, summer fruits, lots of sleep. No school stress. I’m worried about going back to school. It’s hard to get enough sleep and eat healthy lunches. Autonomy doesn’t like going to bed on time and Creative doesn’t like healthy foods that don’t taste great, like oatmeal and carrots.

Mom/Dad:  Adults have the same challenges. The Body Regulator often gets ignored when we are back to school and work. We could work together on some healthy habits. How about we make your lunch together in the evening and make sure Autonomy gets to do what it wants so it’s ready to go to bed?


Summer is really good family time. We have the best times. I’m going to miss summer.

Mom/Dad:  I know what you mean. Maybe we should create a special family event for the fall. What do you think?

Meaning Maker:  

I didn’t know I had a Meaning Maker. Huh. I guess I’m grateful that I don’t have to go to school in the summer. Adults have to keep working! And I’m glad to be refreshed before starting school again.

Mom/Dad:  Summers for kids are very special. I’m glad you are grateful.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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