wellspring HEALTHY TIPS AND ADVICE FOR YOUR FAMILY Anti-bullying tips with Jennifer Jencks, PhD Every seven minutes a child is bullied in this country. As a parent, you can help your child be less vulnerable to bullying. Be proactive: Talk openly with your child about bullying before they become a victim. First Day Fears How to deal with back-to-school anxiety. H ea ding off to school ca n be a str essful ex per ience for both children and parents — especially when it’s their first time. With a little preparation, families can have a smooth transi- tion into the school year, says Jennifer Freeman, PhD, director of research and training at the Pediatric Anxiety Research Center at Bradley Hospital. Here are her tips. Why do so many children get nervous about going to school? Entering kindergarten is a huge transition for kids. It means separation from their parents as well as a big change in routine. For many kids, it’s one of the first times they’ll encounter peer issues like making friends or handling teasing. What can parents do to help their children? Practice ahead of time. Get into the school routine a week or so before school by getting ready as if it were a school day. If possible, go to school and meet your teachers in advance or ride on the bus for a trial run. Set up play dates or visits to relatives’ houses to practice being away from mom and dad all day. What if the parent is the anxious one? It’s normal for parents to be anxious too. They need to accept their anxiety and remind kids that it’s okay to have these feelings, rather than pushing it aside. Acknowledge their feelings and help them through it. A parent’s anxiety shouldn’t be justification for preventing their kids from facing their fears. How can parents tell if their children’s anxiety is normal, or possibly a larger problem? A child may cry when a parent gently, but firmly, sends them into school — and that’s normal. But, if you encounter a child who absolutely refuses to enter school, or is getting physically ill around their anxieties, it may be time to seek help. If you are concerned that your child may have a problem with anxiety, our Kids Link hotline is always available at 1-855-KID LINK. 4 HEALTHY FAMILY l FALL/WINTER 2017 Inform: Discuss what is and isn’t bullying with your child. Tell them that it is a pattern of aggressive behavior where the victim is usually in a more vulnerable position, and that it doesn’t necessarily involve physical violence. Make sure they know who they can reach out to if they are being bullied and help them develop coping techniques. Be calm: Don’t become personally upset if your child complains of bullying. Ask them about it in a composed manner to get to the bottom of the bullying without exacerbating the child’s anxiety. Cope and recover: Give your child time and attention to help them discover solutions to their bullying. Understand that they might not feel comfortable sharing all the details of the bully’s behavior or their own reaction. Offer solutions or role play with them to give them insight into the best coping strategies. Suggest a therapist if they seem to need additional help.