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a role by projecting their own ambi- tions onto their kids, notes Geary. Carl Honoré, author of Under Pressure, cites parents’ good intentions, but blames modern forces—including a perfection- ist culture, a volatile and hypercom- petitive economy and older, first-time parents that bring a workplace ethos to child rearing—for conspiring to pres- sure kids. “What we’re squeezing out is the simple, soaring human pleasure and joy of being a child,” says Honoré. So find ways to lighten up on expectations.

Consider help

Anxious Kids K

Calming Six Ways to Ease Upsets by Elisa Bosley

ids today are no strangers to stress. In a media-saturated world, children face scary stuff every

day, from wars and natural disasters to divorce and peer pressure. In addition to the mental toll, anxiety affects kids’ bodies, too: A study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that family stress directly com- promises immune function and increas- es the likelihood of illness in children. As a parent, how can we help? First, take a deep breath. “Child- hood anxiety is not a new problem in our society,” says Dr. Anandhi Narasim- han, a Los Angeles physician specializ- ing in child and adolescent psychiatry. She notes that all children go through stages of normal fears and worries, and anxieties can show up as stomach aches, headaches, potty accidents, aggression and sleep problems. Here, experts offer tips to discern normal ver- sus unhealthy stress levels and to help a child develop coping skills for life’s inevitable hardships.

20 Volusia / Flagler

Make space Start by simply listening to your child. “When my children are upset, my im- mediate instinct is to ask ‘How can I fix this?’” says Dr. Natalie Geary, an inte- grative pediatrician and mother of three in New York City. “But you need to step back, listen and empathize, without trying to problem-solve right away. If you allow the child to express his or her discomfort, and if you step back and try to gain some perspective, you may start to discern the triggers for his or her anxiety.” Trying to solve the problem immediately can backfire, she advises. Create a consistent time, such as

a snack break after school, to allow a child to download her day. You’ll learn more about what causes her stress and she’ll gain confidence in your care and her own ability to face fears.

Examine yourself For many school-age kids, performance anxiety becomes an overriding con- stant. Unfortunately, parents often play

“Children are expected to visit a pe- diatrician for preventive health, and we should adopt the same principle for mental health,” counsels Narasimhan. “If anxiety is impacting a child’s func- tioning—such as causing him to want to avoid school or public places, show- ing extreme difficulty separating from caretakers, or complaining of frequent pains for which the pediatrician doesn’t see a medical explanation—take the child to a therapist or psychiatrist [to screen for anxiety].”

When appropriate, Narasimhan

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