A Strategy for Helping your Child with Anxieties

Many children have chronic worries, or go through phases of heightened anxiety. Whether they are rational, logic-based fears (e.g. fear of losing power in a thunderstorm) or irrational (e.g. worried about a monster under a bed), they feel the same to the child and can cause real stress. In some cases the worries are “fed” and grow stronger the more the child talks about them and the more the adult tries to reassure them. One strategy to help a child deal with this is by specifying a “Worry Time” each day, lasting for 15 minutes. During Worry Time the child sits with a parent who listens to whatever worries they are having with no interruptions, phone calls, TV, or sibling disruptions. There is just one more very important rule about Worry Time to tell your child: If a worry bothers you at any other time of day, you are not allowed to spend time thinking about it or talking about it until Worry Time. If a worry pops into your mind and it isn’t Worry Time, imagine a safe or treasure box with a strong lock.*** Imagine yourself putting the worry into the box and locking it up, reminding yourself that you can think about the worries again during Worry Time, but for now you will leave them in the box, walk away, and get busy with something else. You can even ask the child to draw a picture of his/ her box and keep it handy as a visual reminder. If a child asks a worry question or starts to tell a worry when it isn’t time, the parent should remind “Oops, that’s a worry. Lock it up in your box! We can talk about that during Worry Time,” with no other answers or reassurance other than that. It will be hard for the child to wait at first, but over time the worries may start to go away on their own and never even make it to the imaginary box. If there aren’t many worries to talk about during Worry Time, use the time just to chat with your child and have peaceful time together.

***another idea is purchasing a set of tiny Worry Dolls, as pictured above, (available at Finders Keepers in Putnam) and then directing the child to imagine telling the worry to one of the dolls, who will keep it safely until Worry Time, at which time you take out the dolls and talk about which dolls are holding what worry.

Source: What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner


What is school phobia?

A child with school phobia is a child who misses considerable school because of vague physical symptoms, usually the type that people get when they are upset or worried, such as stomachaches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, or dizziness. These symptoms mainly occur in the morning, and they worsen when it is time to leave for school. Your child otherwise seems healthy and vigorous.

School phobia is very common and affects at least 5% of elementary school children and 2% of middle school children. Often the symptoms begin in September or October.

What is the cause?

A school-phobic child is usually afraid of leaving home in general, rather than afraid of anything in particular at school. For example, he may experience homesickness when staying at a friend's house. Often the first test of a child's independence comes when he must attend school daily. Aside from poor attendance, these children usually are good students and well behaved at school. The parents are typically good parents who are conscientious and loving. Such parents are sometimes overly protective and close, and the child finds it difficult to separate from them (separation anxiety). He may lack the self-confidence that comes from handling life's normal stresses without his parents' help.

Sometimes a change of schools, strict teacher, difficult tests, a learning problem, or a bully may appear to be causes of the child's fear of going to school. But such factors may be only part of the problem, and your child should still go to school while these problems are being resolved.

Perhaps the child is afraid to leave home out of an unrealistic belief he or she must stay behind to “mind the store,” or to guard against some danger. The child feels unbearably anxious unless he or she stays home, where the parents' well being may be confirmed. Changes in a family or living situation may trigger these anxieties, as well as resulting parental stress, for which a child may feel the desire to stay home and “take care of mommy.” The child's parents, on the other hand, may search for something in school that has intimidated their child. In this case, avoidance is probably the result of many factors, and the child may be reacting to both home and school stresses.

How long will it last?

If daily school attendance is enforced, the problem of school phobia will improve dramatically in 1 or 2 weeks. On the other hand, if you do not require your child to attend school every day, the physical symptoms and the desire to stay home will become more frequent. The longer your child stays home, the harder it will be for him to return.

How can I help my child?

  • Insist on an immediate return to school.

The best therapy for school phobia is to be in school every day. Fears are overcome by facing them as soon as possible. Daily school attendance will cause most of your child's physical symptoms to magically improve. At first, however, your child will test your determination to send her every day. You must make school attendance a nonnegotiable, ironclad rule. Be optimistic with your child and reassure him that he will feel better after he gets to school.

  • Be extra firm on school mornings.

In the beginning, mornings may be a difficult time. You should never ask your child how he feels because it will encourage him to complain. If he is well enough to be up and around the house, he is well enough to go to school. If your child complains of physical symptoms, but they are his usual ones, he should be sent to school promptly with minimal discussion. If you are uncertain about your child's health, try to err on the side of sending him to school; if later the symptoms worsen, the school nurse can reevaluate your child's health.

If your child is late, he should go to school anyway. When he misses the school bus, you should have a prearranged alternative plan of transportation. Sometimes a relative or babysitter can take charge of the matter for a few days.

  • Have your child see her health care provider on any morning she stays home.

If your child has a new physical symptom or seems quite sick, you will probably want her to stay home. If you are puzzled, your health care provider will usually be able to determine the cause of her sickness. If the symptom is caused by a disease, appropriate treatment can be started. If the symptom results from anxiety, your child should be back in school before noon. Working closely with your child's doctor in this way can solve even the most difficult of school phobia problems.

  • Ask the school staff for assistance.

Schools are usually very understanding about school phobia, once they are informed of the problem, because it is such a common one. Ask the school nurse to let your child lie down for 5 to 15 minutes in her office and regroup, rather than send him home if his symptoms act up in school. It is also helpful to talk to your child's teacher and school counselor about the situation.

If your child has special fears, like reciting in class, the teacher will usually make special allowances.

  • Talk with your child about school fears.

At a time other than a school morning, talk with your child about her problems. Encourage her to tell you exactly what upsets her. Ask her what is the worse possible thing that could happen to her at school or on the way to school. If there's a situation you can change, tell her you will work on it. If she's worried about the physical symptoms becoming worse at school, reassure her that she can lie down for a few minutes in the nurse's office as needed. After listening carefully, tell her you can appreciate how she feels, but it's still necessary to attend school while she's getting better.

  • Help your child spend more time with his agemates.

Outside of school, school-phobic children tend to prefer to be with their parents, play indoors, be alone in their rooms, watch a lot of TV, etc. Many of them cannot stay overnight at a friend's home without developing overwhelming homesickness. They need encouragement to play more with their peers. This can be difficult for a parent who enjoys the child's company, but it is the best course of action in the long run. Encourage your child to join clubs and athletic teams. Send her outside more or to other children's homes. Her friends can be asked to join the family for outings or for overnight stays. Help your child learn to stay overnight with relatives and friends. A summer camp experience can be a turning point.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call if:

  • The school phobia is not resolved in 2 weeks using this approach.
  • The school phobia recurs.
  • You think the cause of the symptoms may be physical rather than emotional.
  • Your child continues to have other fears or separation problems.
  • Your child is withdrawn in general or seems depressed.

References: B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books. & Maureen Hogan, Ph.D.


Every hour .…..someone commits a hate crime. Even though we believe we see and treat people as equals, hidden biases may still influence our perceptions and actions. Bias is a human condition, and American history is filled with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, or other differences.

We are not born with these biases….they are learned-and learned early- and can be unlearned. The 20th Century saw major progress in outlawing discrimination, and most Americans today support integrated schools and neighborhoods. But stereotypes and unequal treatment persist. The good news is ...All over the country people are fighting and standing up to hate. They are promoting tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good erupts, too. . One person, acting from conscience and love, can neutralize bigotry. A group of people can create a moral barrier to hate.

Each year , more than 200,000 students nationwide accept the challenge to begin “breaking down walls” in their schools. On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, they step out of their comfort zones and sit somewhere new, with someone different in their school cafeterias. Mix It Up supports the efforts of student activists who are willing to take on the challenge of identifying, questioning and crossing social boundaries. For many students, these barriers are a stressful, daily constant.
In a Mix It Up survey:

A majority of students said that schools were "quick to put people into categories."

  • 40% admitted that they had rejected someone from another group.
  • 1/3 said it's hard to become friends with people in different groups.

Social boundaries like these can create divisions and misunderstandings in our schools and communities. By working to cross these barriers, students can help create environments with less conflict and fewer instances of bullying, harassment and violence.

Each year at Woodstock Elementary School, the 4th graders participate in Mix it Up Day in November. Pre and post-activity classroom discussions are held, and we learn about the words “categories,” “biases,” “labels,” and “stereotypes.” Just a few of the ideas students come up with for ways they differentiate people are: gender, height, weight, talents/interest, hair/eye/skin color, physical/learning challenges, age, popularity, athletic ability, and kinds of clothes people wear. We discuss which, if any, of these differences were important in making judgments about people and in deciding with whom we spend our free time and include in our circle of friends. We also talk about whether people judge others based on one of these characteristics, or based on actually getting to know a person fully. Each student is asked to identify people in the class that they either do not know or viewed as very different from themselves. Students are then seated next to these people at lunch for one day, versus the usual unassigned seating. Conversation starters are provided, and the students, after a very quiet and somewhat uncomfortable start, begin interacting and learning about their classmates.

Follow-up class meetings occur to discuss how the students felt about being with people they didn’t usually interact with, and about how “different” (or not) these people really were. Usually students discover that by limiting the type of person with whom they spend time, they are excluding some pretty exciting and interesting people! Also, that our commonalities are far greater and important than our perceived differences!

One year students made two displays: one was “WAYS WE BUILD WALLS” and included things such as name-calling, judging others, stereotyping, choosing friends based on their physical appearance, etc. The other display was “HOW WE BREAK DOWN WALLS” and those bricks listed such quotes as “come on over and play with us,” “Hi, what’s your name?” and many other actions that promote inclusion and equality. Photos of these displays can be seen below this article. The students overwhelmingly felt positive about Mix-It-Up Day and often want it more than once a year. Ideas are brainstormed about how to “break down walls” on a daily basis through your words and actions, and students leave the project a bit more open-minded and compassionate toward others.



If you’ve ever been in the presence of more than one child at a time, there’s an excellent chance you’ve been exposed to tattling in one way or another. It can be the one of the most frustrating things to deal with, and it covers areas of both home and school. I so often see, hear, and experience myself, the--sucking in-- that goes on between children and adults in this way, be it in the classroom or on the other end of the phone line when talking to my friends with children in the home. The common responses are for the adult to start yelling at the said victimizer, separating the kids without investigation, or any other of a number of things, all of which result in one thing and one thing only: solving the problem for the tattler, instead of encouraging and teaching independent problem-solving skills.

Why it happens

Children tattle for the same reasons adults do--to manipulate, to get revenge, to exert power, or just to get attention. It usually happens among siblings ”brought on by feelings of rivalry” but it can also happen among playmates. And while tattling is more common among older children, toddlers may do it too, especially if they are around older kids. Susanne Denham, professor of developmental psychology at George Mason University and author of Emotional Development in Young Children, notes that recent studies in England have shown that toddlers as young as 18 months learn how to tease their brothers or sisters astonishingly well, a "skill" they parlay into tattling. "One child made a joke about making his older sibling's teddy bear disappear," says Denham. "For an 18- or 20-month-old that's pretty sophisticated. That's saying, 'I know how to get to you.' Tattling can work the same way." On the other hand, Denham says, tattling may be related to a young child's emerging moral sense: "Something violates a rule that they just realized exists, they get upset, and they want the rule enforced. But you're not going to be able to sit them down and ask them what their moral reasoning is, so you'll have to handle it another way." And it's something you'll want to handle, because no one likes a tattler.

What to do

Check out the situation. Before you worry that your child's turning into a whiny tattletale, take stock of the situation yourself. Children need to learn not to tattle but they also need to feel secure in the knowledge that they can ask for help when necessary. As an adult, you know that "Dad, Jonathan's eating my cookie" is a very different situation from "Dad, Jonathan's eating roach bait." But your child will need time and increased judgment to learn the difference. If your child continually asks you to intervene in a situation she can and should handle herself--” say her friend Natalie is using all the crayons in her art box”--that's one thing. But if the situation is too much for her -- for example, an older, stronger child is hitting her or teasing her without mercy, or if her playmate is unlocking the door and heading for the street--she needs to know that she can come to you. And even if the danger's not as clear-cut as eating poison, you may need to intervene.

Teach her how to cope another way. Even if no one's in danger, your toddler will probably need guidance on what to do instead of tattling. Tell her what you don't like about her behavior ("Wendy, it sounds like you need some help. I can help you more if you stop whining and tell me what happened"). If the label's appropriate, use it, and tell her why ("Tattling is when you try to get someone else in trouble. It sounds to me like you're angry with Emily. Can you tell me why?"). This way, she knows why you object to it. "We all want to have kids who are not telling on each other all the time," says Denham. "I would probably ignore a lot of it when they're very young and then as they get a bit bigger tell them there are times when they have to deal with things themselves." Ask her questions to help her explore why she's telling on somebody else: What's happening here? What's the problem? How can we solve it? Then figure out an alternative strategy. Can she share, or take turns? Does she want to play by herself for a while? Reassuring her that you're interested in helping her will soothe her. If tattling is really what's going on, tell her you'll be happy to listen to anything she wants to tell you about herself---but not about her friend or sibling.

Go back to the bargaining table. Once you've heard the complaint, assessed the dangers, and helped them come up with potential solutions, send them back into the fray. What you want is for your children to develop their own problem-solving abilities. "Work it out"--” or some variation of this phrase--” is something Robin Harding, mother of three girls in Devon, England, recalls telling her daughters. "They wanted my attention, but they were driving me crazy. So that was my favorite phrase for a while," she says. "I'd listen, give a hug, and then say, 'Now that sounds like something you can sort out yourselves.' Or I'd give them a choice: 'I'm busy cooking dinner. You can sort it out yourselves or put it away till later.' After a while they began to try automatically to do it themselves."

Don't reward the tattler by punishing the other child. By tattling, your child is enlisting your aid in whatever complex power struggle she's involved in. If you jump into the fray on the tattler's side, you've played right into her hands. Not only will you reinforce the behavior by helping the tattler achieve what she wants (she gets your attention and the other child gets into trouble), you also risk disciplining unjustly if the tattler is exaggerating, which children sometimes do. In the case of siblings, this is certain to increase the amount of sibling rivalry as well. If you stand your ground, your child will soon understand that some battles are meant for her alone, and that she can be proud of herself if she handles a situation on her own.

Source: www.babycenter.com

Enjoy the Outdoors

As spring arrives and warm weather and added daylight approach, I can’t help but feel the need to get outside and enjoy it. My mom boasted proudly that, from the day I and each of my siblings was brought home from the hospital after our birth, she would put us outside for at least 15 minutes a day to get some fresh air into our lungs. As we grew older, she continued to insist on much of our “free” time being spent outdoors if the weather permitted, and believe me, her definition of acceptable weather conditions was quite liberal! There is so much in the news lately about childhood obesity and social skills deficits, and the common thread running between these two is the increase of indoor, especially solitary indoor play (e.g. computer/video games), and decrease of outdoor play. Consider these two articles, and maybe the next time your child asks “what can I do?” you will reply “go play outside!” Happy spring!

The Return of Fun

by Jay Heinrichs

Runner’s World Magazine

The number of overweight American children has tripled in the past 40 years. One solution: Bring back the art of aimless outdoor play

Coopertown Elementary School was the perfect place to play when I was a kid in the 1960s. The one-story, '50s-modern affair in the Philadelphia suburbs was surrounded by sports fields, baseball diamonds, and a basketball court. Adults were blessedly absent. Freed from supervision, we played pickup basketball games, chose up armies for toy-gun battles, or just rode our bikes around the empty parking lot. Nobody "exercised" or "worked out." We were just having fun.

I drove by Coopertown's playground last summer, and noticed that things hadn't changed--same fields, same swings, same maddeningly unclimbable oak tree--except for the kids. There weren't any. Adults were all over the place, running, biking, and hitting baseballs, while the only child in sight was a little boy playing catch with his dad. It was an eerie kind of role reversal, like some schoolyard version of Planet of the Apes. Where were the kids? My hunch is that a lot of them were at home, staring at glowing screens, having virtual fun.

Coopertown is just one example of a larger, radical transformation in American society: Much of childhood has been moved indoors. Unfortunately, kids are paying for this change with their bellies, as the percentage of American children who are obese has more than tripled over the last 4 decades.

Those 9 million overweight kids face a potentially scary future. If they don't slim down by age 20, their life expectancy will drop by up to 20 years. An obese child is more susceptible than his peers to diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and, maybe worst of all, sheer misery. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this summer surveyed the physical activity, doctor's visits, and sick days of obese kids and found their quality of life comparable to that of young cancer patients on chemotherapy.

The media rightly blame the supersized American diet. The portion size of French fries, hamburgers, and soda served in restaurants has grown by two to five times since 1977. But weight is an equation with two variables, so here's an equally alarming stat: The average teenager is 13 percent less physically active today than in 1980, according to Lisa Sutherland, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That's a lot more calories going in, and a lot less being burned.

What about sports and exercise programs? Kids aren't getting much of either. In the past decade alone, the number of children participating in daily physical-education classes at school has dropped from 42 to 29 percent. That said, children don't always need teachers to get them in shape. In fact, one of the most effective fitness "programs" may consist of nothing more than letting a kid loose on a playground. A 75-pound child riding a bike burns 90 calories in 45 minutes, the equivalent of one large chocolate-chip cookie. But a kid who spends a half-hour running around and another 15 minutes watching ants carry crumbs will burn more than 260 calories, equal to the amount in a large cookie and a Coke. In other words, just acting like a kid once a day can make the difference in body weight of a pound a month. Add walking, swimming, biking to school, or a weekly hike in the woods, and who needs to worry about exercise?

Why Play Outdoors?

By Eric Strickland, Ph.D.

Get outside! Your child will not only build her physical prowess, she'll boost social skills too.

Through physical play outdoors, your child develops confidence in herself as she sees her skills grow: "Watch me climb the monkey bars, look how high I can swing. Watch me, watch me!" A child who is initially reluctant to go down the tall slide feels a great deal of personal pride when he finally musters up the courage to do so.

This self-confidence can translate into social confidence: Children who feel good about their physical abilities tend to view themselves more positively in general. This generalized feeling of competence finds expression easily as children approach other children to play, offer suggestions for solving problems or conflicts that arise during play, and negotiate their way through play episodes that change tone, content, and direction.

Keep in mind that opportunities for social growth can occur even when there are conflicts. Some disagreements are inevitable as children interact, play out various themes, and compete for the same play equipment. However, providing these outdoor opportunities for learning social skills (such as sharing, using language, including others in play, turn taking, developing play "manners"), we can help our children become more socially confident as they approach new play situations.

Related Link: www.actionforhealthykids.org

How to Ask for Something You Want:

1) Look the Person in the eye

2) Say the person’s name

3) Ask for what you want, and say please….

Did it work?

If yes:

4) Say “thank you!”

If no:

5) Ask the person “Why” or “Why not?”

6) Say something to SOLVE the PROBLEM (e.g. offer to share, take turns, get some help from another person, or try again later).