Easing Back-to-School Anxiety

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Q. Every year my children and I have a fantastic summer. Then the first week of school comes, and their anxiety level suddenly rises. How can we avoid this?
— High Anxiety

A. Parents can make the back-to-school transition less traumatic by clearing their schedules so they can focus on their children. The less parents have to do at home and on the job in mid-August, the more relaxed they will be.

Children tend to be especially anxious if they are attending a new school or have had bad experiences the previous year. This is the time for parents to be calm, positive and reassuring. They also need to be careful not to overreact to problems that pop up in the first days and help their children develop coping strategies. If children have been bullied or teased the previous year, new teachers need to know about this during the first few days of school to stop it from happening again.

Parents also can make the start of school more comfortable for their younger children by arranging play dates for them during the first couple of weeks. This helps them rebuild social relationships with their classmates.

Q. The television is on in our house most of the day, but our toddlers don’t watch it much of the time. Is this bad for them, really? All we ever hear about are the negatives of young children watching TV. Aren’t there any positives?
— TV Lover

A. Shut your television off. Hearing the constant noise in the background results in toddlers doing less talking and less listening to others talk. You’ll  clearly see this if you observe them playing while the television is on.

You really should follow the TV viewing guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which strongly recommends children do not view television until they are age 2. After that, the AAP suggests no more than 2 hours a day. These are sensible guidelines for parents to follow and really allow for a lot of TV viewing. You must understand that most of the day in early childhood needs to be devoted to active play to maximize intellectual development. Just think of all the other opportunities to experience the world your toddlers are missing while watching TV.

There are other downsides to watching too much TV at a young age. Later on, some current research shows you can expect many kids to have poorer achievement in math in school and to be less active physically. They also are likely to consume more junk food than those who have watched less TV.

While, early TV watching has been completely demonized by most child-development experts, there actually are some positive benefits to preschoolers who watch programs with a strong educational content. But most kids are not watching educational shows.

Parent Tip: A Lunch Box Secret!

One very important aspect of packing lunches is keeping the food safe for your children to eat. Before beginning to pack a lunch, be sure your hands are clean and you are packing the food in a clean container. Use thermoses for hot foods and cold packs to keep food cold. One trick is to freeze some foods so they can thaw before lunch. Finally, include moist towelettes as a reminder to your children to clean their hands. One caution: Be sure to pack lunches that meet any restrictions the school has laid down.