We tend to believe that while parents lead stressful lives, our kids have an existence filled with innocence and ease. They play all day long-- they don't have to worry about working or paying bills. What stresses could they possibly have? As it turns out, plenty. According to a study by KidsHealth.org, kids between the ages of 9 and 13 worry about lots of things - getting good grades, being attractive, problems at home, being well-liked, losing weight, failing, their friends' problems and disappointing their loved ones. Of 1,004 preteens polled, 53 percent claimed they worry weekly or daily about getting good grades, while 43 percent worried about being attractive. Although the study found that a majority of kids say they worry only rarely, it also found that 20 to 30 percent of those polled said they worry daily. While we may be wrong in believing that kids have nothing to worry about, the logic behind our belief is sound; because they're kids, they shouldn't have to worry about anything. Fitting in, being liked and getting the most out of childhood isn't easy however, and if your child struggles with these goals he or she will experience moments of stress, worry and anxiety. When this stress and worry become a predominant part of life it leaves a lasting effect, and your worried preteen is likely to become a worried adult. The KidsHealth study also found that "a parent" was the most common resource kids use for learning about the things that worry them (about 42 percent claimed to seek out their parents for help). Whether they come to you or you go to them, however, you should take every opportunity to ease stress in your children's lives and lead them into a worry-free adulthood.
- Avoid fighting in front of them. Being aware of family conflict and resolution is part of an essential, on-going lesson for your children; it teaches them to deal with personal conflict and how to overcome it in a healthy manner. Bearing witness to heated arguments, physical or emotional violence, or familial tension and resentment, however, has a profound effect on a child's well-being. If his home is in a constant state of tension and anger, or if he feels his stable life is hanging by the thread of your dissolving marriage, your child will be in a constant state of worry. This worry is hard on the body as well as the mind, and while it may make itself known through a change in your child's actions, it may also manifest in your child's physical well-being.
- Help them comprehend news stories. Overhearing an "adult" news story is one of the most common ways that many children first realize the world is not a fairy-tale. It can be a very cruel world, too cruel for your children to know of, but you cannot keep them blind forever. Younger kids may hear of abduction stories and fear for their own safety. They may also become concerned for others, like children in areas of the world overcome with war or famine. It is important for you to discuss these issues with your child rather than sweeping them away and pretending they didn't ask. It is hard to do, but you have to explain to them that bad things happen sometimes. However, you also must reassure her that she is perfectly safe, and that these events happen very rarely. Although you shouldn't lie to your child, you should also temper the information you give her.
- Be sympathetic when planning a move. Moving away from home is extremely hard on children, especially those who have grown old enough to develop friends outside the home. It's an upheaval of everything the child knows about his stable life: he'll be living in a new house, going to a new school and meeting all new people. When planning the move, make sure the child is as involved as possible. Although he may want no part of it at first, it is important that you let him have some form of control during this otherwise uncontrollable event. Let him pick the color of his new room, or (if possible) allow him to pick the actual room. Let him help arrange furniture, as well, and ask him for design tips. If he feels he's helping rebuild his home, he will become acclimated to it that much quicker.
- Watch for bullying. Bullies are a main worry of most children. A particularly aggressive bully can make going to school unbearable, and your kids may spend the rest of their days worrying about the next time they have to deal with their aggressor. You have to watch for the signs of bullying, however, because oftentimes kids won't say anything to avoid reprisals. Symptoms that your child is being bullied include loss of personal possessions, unexplained bruises, unwillingness to go to school and decrease in class performance. Almost all schools have anti-bullying rules in place, so you should approach the administrators as soon as you find out. Talking to the bully's parents is also a possibility, but the bully is more likely to find out who told on him. If none of these tactics work, you may have to accept that children do get bullied and have to learn to stand up for themselves. Don't just toss him to the wolves, however. Teach them how.
- Don't let them worry about death - Although this is nearly impossible for a child who has experienced the loss of a close loved one, you should definitely pursue this tactic against a child who is worrying about death simply because it is something to worry about. Yes, death is the end of all things, and yes, it does eventually get us all. She should be assured, however, that she is going to live a long and happy life, give birth to lots of babies and eventually be the matriarch of her own empire of descendents. Assure them that death is not something you worry about until you're in your 80s. This is obviously a fierce exaggeration of the truth, but children don't need to be overburdened with too much truth.