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Stressing Out at School

Parents can help children cope with anxieties

SATURDAY, Oct. 12, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- If your child is still anxious or stressed about settling into a new school year, there are ways you can help them cope.

That's the reassuring opinion of Lisa Boyum, a pediatric and adolescent psychologist at National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

"The first and most important step is listening to your child. It underlies everything else. Sometimes listening is enough to initiate the changes you want," Boyum says.

Here's some more advice for parents:

  • Eat with your children. Sharing meals is important and helpful in many ways, Boyum says. It gives parents and children the chance to talk about the day and any issues that came up. Talking about a particular concern can help children find answers to their problems and worries. These dinner conversations let parents monitor what their children are doing and what issues they're facing. Also, research shows that children who eat regular meals with their parents do better in school and have better social skills.
  • Make other opportunities to listen to your children. Regular, predictable activities such as driving to school, walking the dog or doing the dishes give children with the chance to talk with their parents and share what's on their minds, Boyum says. Children are often more comfortable broaching difficult subjects during an activity that has a finite length because it means there's a time limit on potentially unpleasant conversations, Boyum says.
  • Don't rush your answers to a child's questions and concerns. Hear them through. If you interrupt a child to offer your analysis or advice, the child may feel you're lecturing, not listening. If you don't have an answer to offer at that moment, explain it to your child and tell the child you want to think about what she said before you come to a conclusion.
  • Reassure your child that other students are struggling with many of the same issues and concerns. You might even share a story about your own fears and mistakes when you were a child. Point out that you survived them and so will your child, Boyum says.

More information

There's more about children's mental health at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

SOURCE: National Jewish Medical and Research Center, news release, September 2002
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