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Back-to-School Survival Guide

How to Ease Your Kids’ Anxieties

Certain rites of passage―first day of school, first flushed goldfish―are stress-inducing. Here’s how to help your children deal with them.

By Erin Zammett Ruddy
Family outside a homeAnnie Schlechter

The First ... Crush

How to handle it: Talk about it. “The first crush is a good opportunity to start discussing what your child likes about different people, what qualities attract her to one person over another,” says D’Arcy Lyness, Ph.D., a child psychologist for Of course, she will probably be on to Chris or Will by week’s end, but if she’s having a tough time getting over Timmy, share your own first-crush experience. “Tell her it’s something we all go through,” says Lyness. For insight into what the first-crush experience might be like for your child, add Little Manhattan, a kid-friendly 2005 film about an 11-year-old falling in love for the first time, to your Netflix queue.

And for heaven’s sake, do not: Make a joke of it. No matter how cute/ridiculous/silly you think your child’s swooning is, don’t let it show. “Try to tread that nice middle ground between not taking things too seriously and dwelling on it too much,” says Lyness.

The First ... Trip to the ER

How to handle it: Call your child’s regular doctor immediately, before taking her to the ER, says Mary Ellen Renna, a pediatrician in Woodbury, New York, and the author of Medical Truths Revealed! ($15, “Your pediatrician may be able to help you interpret test results, expedite waiting time, and speak to the doctors about preexisting conditions while you’re waiting in the ER,” she says. As for preparing the child, less is more. If it’s an X-ray, tell her someone is going to take a picture of her; for an IV, say there will be a pinch and then the medicine will go right in to make her feel better. “The number one thing kids want to know when I send them to the ER is ‘Will Mommy be with me the whole time?’ ” says Renna. And the answer is yes. Apart from X-rays, there is almost no time a parent has to leave a child alone in the ER. You can tell older kids more: “At 10 years old, their fantasy of what the ER is like is scarier than the reality, so details help,” says Renna. Reassure a child that even if he has to stay overnight, you’ll be there the whole time (in one of those comfortable bedside chairs). Try to bring something from home (a blanket, a toy) to make the child feel safe.

And for heaven’s sake, do not: Avoid talking about it after the fact. “You don’t want children to be afraid of the doctor going forward,” says Renna. Besides, kids are usually eager to recap their hospital adventures.

Read More About:Kids & Parenting

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