Health tip of the Week

Check in with the chil­dren for stress and anx­i­ety

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health l Cancer - Health Tip of the Week is spon­sored by Pfizer as part of its Health Town ini­tia­tive. Ev­ery year Pfizer se­lects a town to take part in a unique ini­tia­tive aimed at show­ing you – no mat­ter what age you are, or in­deed, where you live – sim­ple steps to im­prov

As the days get colder and shorter, most of us are aware of what we need to do to keep our fam­i­lies healthy over the win­ter months – in­clud­ing keep­ing them warm and dry, giv­ing them nu­tri­tious food and en­sur­ing they get enough ex­er­cise.

But fam­ily health runs a lot deeper and some chil­dren may not be cop­ing well at school and may be strug­gling with un­nec­es­sary stress and anx­i­ety.

This may be down to some­thing sim­ple such as find­ing it dif­fi­cult to set­tle in to a new school, miss­ing old friends, feel­ing too shy to make new ones, strug­gling with the work­load or sim­ply not get­ting on with their new teacher.

What­ever the is­sue, child psy­chol­o­gist Peadar Maxwell says it is im­por­tant for us to be aware of what is trou­bling our chil­dren and do what we can to help.

Hang­ing out

“With­out mak­ing a big deal, par­ents can check in about how things are go­ing, who your child is hang­ing out with, how is s/he get­ting on with teach­ers and class­mates and to try to en­cour­age some­thing that they like about the new school,” he advises.

“Pos­i­tiv­ity can be en­cour­aged by ask­ing what their favourite sub­ject is, who they like sit­ting with in class or at lunch and then this can be re­in­forced.

“I would sug­gest hav­ing lit­tle talk when the child is not up­set or feel­ing neg­a­tive and dis­cuss what is mak­ing them un­happy,” he says. “Talk about things which can and can­not change and fo­cus on some small achiev­able goals, cho­sen by your child.

“They may de­cide to seek out a pal to walk to school with. Or per­haps they need to sit away from giddy class­mates or need help with a sub­ject. By dis­cussing what they need to live with and what could be worked at helps your child be­come so­lu­tion-fo­cused.”

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