Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events


After any disaster, parents and other adults struggle with what they should say and share with children and what not to say or share with them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the crisis and present it in a way that their child can accommodate, adjust to, and cope with.

Where to Start – All Ages
No matter what age or developmental stage the child is, parents can start by asking a child what they’ve already heard. Most children will have heard something, no matter how old they are. After you ask them what they’ve heard, ask what questions they have.

Older children, teens, and young adults might ask more questions and may request and benefit more from additional information. But no matter what age the child is, it’s best to keep the dialogue straightforward and direct.

Avoiding Graphic Details & Exposure to Media
In general, it is best to share basic information with children, not graphic details, or unnecessary details about tragic circumstances. Children and adults alike want to be able to understand enough so they know what’s going on. Graphic information and images should be avoided.

Keep young children away from repetitive graphic images and sounds that may appear on television, radio, social media, computers, etc.

With older children, if you do want them to watch the news, record it ahead of time. That allows you to preview it and evaluate its contents before you sit down with them to watch it. Then, as you watch it with them, you can stop, pause, and have a discussion when you need to.

Children will generally follow good advice, but you have to give them some latitude to make decisions about what they’re ready for. You can block them from seeing the newspaper that comes to the door, for example, but not the one on the newsstand. Today, most older children will have access to the news and graphic images through social media and other applications right from their cell phone. You need to be aware of what’s out there and take steps in advance to talk to children about what they might hear or see.

Talking to Very Young Children
The reality is that even children as young as 4 years old will hear about major crisis events. It’s best that they hear about it from a parent or caregiver, as opposed to another child or in the media.

Even the youngest child needs accurate information, but you don’t want to be too vague. Simply saying, “Something happened in a faraway town and some people got hurt,” doesn’t tell the child enough about what happened. The child may not understand why this is so different from people getting hurt every day and why so much is being said about it. The underlying message for a parent to convey is, “It’s okay if these things bother you. We are here to support each other.”

Talking to Gradeschool Children & Teens
After asking your child what they have heard and if they have questions about what occurred during a school shooting, community bombing, natural disaster, or even a disaster in an international country, a parent can say something such as:

“Yes. In [city], [state]” (and here you might need to give some context, depending on whether it’s nearby or far away, for example, ‘That’s a city/state that’s pretty far from/close to here’), there was disaster and many people were hurt. The police and the government are doing their jobs so they can try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

A parent can follow-up as needed based on the child’s reactions and questions.

Talking to Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities
Parents who have a child with a developmental delay or disability should gear their responses to their child’s developmental level or abilities, rather than their physical, age. If you have a teenage child whose level of intellectual functioning is more similar to a 7-year-old, for instance, gear your response toward her developmental level. Start by giving less information. Provide details or information in the most appropriate and clear way you can.

Talking to Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
What’s helpful to a child with an ASD may be different. For instance, the child may find less comfort in cuddling than some other children. Parents should try something else that does calm and comfort their child on other occasions. Ask yourself, “Given who my child is, his personality, temperament, and developmental abilities, what might work for him?”

Signs a Child Might Not Be Coping Well
If children don’t have a chance to practice healthy coping, a parent may see signs that they’re having difficulty adjusting. Some of things to look for are:

  • Sleep problems: Watch for trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, difficulty waking, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances.
  • Physical complaints: Children may complain of feeling tired, having a headache, or generally feeling unwell. You may notice your child eating too much or less than usual.
  • Changes in behavior: Look for signs of regressive behavior, including social regression, acting more immature, or becoming less patient and more demanding. A child who once separated easily from her parents may become clingy. Teens may begin or change current patterns of tobacco, alcohol, or substance use.
  • Emotional problems: Children may experience undue sadness, depression, anxiety, or fears.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a child is reacting in a typical way to an unusual event or whether they are having real problems coping, and might need extra support. If you are concerned, talk to your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional or counselor.

Don’t wait for the signs. Start the discussion early, and keep the dialogue going.

Adapted from an eHealthMD interview with David Schonfeld, MD, FAAP, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and member of the AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Your Family Rituals

Every family should have activities that they enjoy together and that become a regular, predictable, and integral part of their lives. Some can be serious pur­suits, like attending community functions or religious services as a family; oth­ers can be more lighthearted, like going fishing. Whatever they are, they can help bond a family together. These are some rituals that many families have made parts of their lives:

Important Conversations
Communication between parents and children should be a top priority in your family. Set aside time to talk, discussing the day’s and the week’s activities, sharing feelings and really listening to one an­other.

Respect the privacy of each of your youngsters as they begin to assert their independence during these middle years; they may have certain problems and difficulties they may not want to divulge to their brothers and sisters. You should be able to have a one-on-one conversation with each child without all the other children listening to it. If you honor his wishes for confidentiality, this can build trust between you.

Some families establish a weekly time for a family meeting. When everyone is present, family issues, relationships, plans, and experiences are discussed, and everyone from the youngest to the oldest gets a chance to be heard and to participate.

Recreation and Cultural Activities
Family recreation is an important way to strengthen the family. Sports (participation and spectator), games, movies, and walks in the park are good ways to increase cohesiveness and reduce stress.

Cultural activities can be valuable too. Visits to museums, libraries, plays, musicals, and concerts can expand the family’s horizons and deepen appreci­ation for the arts.

Shopping trips can provide regular opportunities for parents and children to spend time together. Whether you are grocery shopping or buying birthday gifts, these excursions can be fun and exciting for youngsters in mid­dle childhood. Let your children make lists, find items in the store, carry the bags to the car, and unpack them once you return home. Allowing your child some choices and assigning some meaningful responsibilities can help build his self-confidence.

Reading and Singing Aloud
Reading and singing aloud as a family promotes feelings of closeness and an appreciation for music and books. Parents should find out what stories their children like to read, and what music they like to lis­ten to. It is lots of fun to take turns reading aloud, and to let the children hear the stories and songs you enjoyed when you were growing up.

Holiday Traditions
These are another source of fun family activities. By learning about the history, significance, and rituals of a particular holiday, chil­dren will feel a greater sense of involvement in the holiday preparations and celebrations.

Spiritual Pursuits
For many families, religion plays an important role in pro­viding a moral tradition, a set of values, and a network of friends and neigh­bors who can provide support. Attending services is something family members can do together.

You do not necessarily need to go to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship regularly, however, to share moral values with your children and help them develop a sense of their history and the continuity of the family. Many families develop a strong spiritual life without the formal structure of orga­nized religion.

Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Constantly Connected: Adverse Effects of Media on Children & Teens

​Today’s children and teens are growing up immersed in digital media. They are exposed to media in all forms, including TV, computers, smartphones, and other screens.

Media can influence how children and teens feel, learn, think, and behave.
What We Know:

Here are facts about digital media use.

  • Almost 75% of teens own a smartphone. They can access the Internet, watch TV and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). Mobile apps allow photo-sharing, gaming, and video-chatting.
  • 25% of teens describe themselves as “constantly connected” to the Internet.
  • 76% of teens use at least one social media site. More than 70% of teens visit multiple social media sites, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
  • 4 of 5 households (families) own a device used to play video games.

Why It’s Good to Unplug:
Overuse of digital media and screens may place your child or teen at risk of

Obesity. Excessive screen use, as well as having a TV in the bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity. Teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV per day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch 0 to 2 hours. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity for children 4 through 9 years of age. This is in part due to the fact that viewers are exposed to advertising for high-calorie foods. Viewers are also more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media.

Sleep problems. Media use can interfere with sleep. Children and teens who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. Exposure to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep, and have a negative effect on school.

Problematic internet use. Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. They spend most of their free time online, and show less interest in offline or “real-life” relationships. 4% to 8% of children and teens may have problems limiting their Internet use, and almost 10% of US youth 8 to 18 years of age may have Internet gaming disorder. There may be increased risks for depression at both the high and low ends of Internet use.

Negative effect on school performance. Children and teens often use entertainment media at the same time that they’re doing other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on school.

Risky behaviors. Teens’ displays on social media often show risky behaviors, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury, or eating disorders. Exposure of teens through media to alcohol, tobacco use, or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors.

Sexting and privacy and predators. Sexting is sending nude or seminude images as well as sexually explicit text messages using a cell phone. About 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. Another risk is that sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online games to contact and exploit children.

Cyberbullying. Children and teens online can be victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. Fortunately, programs to help prevent bullying may reduce cyberbullying.

Children today are growing up in a time of highly personalized media use experiences, so parents must develop personalized media use plans for their children. Media plans should take into account each child’s age, health, personality, and developmental stage. All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour), and time away from media. Put together your family media plan today!

Source: Digital Media and Your Children and Teens: TV, Computers, Smartphones, and Other Screens (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Teaching Gratitude


In her article “12 Tips for Teaching Children Gratitude,” Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann offers ways to teach children gratitude and create a more joyful home. “Kids are naturally materialistic and self-serving,” she explains, “but the good news is that gratitude can be taught. And from gratitude flows joy.”

Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • Surprise them! Avoid too many choices: Surprises help children see something as a gift, not an entitlement. Having too many choices breeds unhappiness– you are always wondering if you could have something better.
  • Talk about the best parts of your day. Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”
  • For older children, try keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals have been shown to be an effective approach to helping children be happier: One study had 221 sixth- and seventh-graders write down five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Three weeks later, these students had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  • Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity. It’s great for kids to participate in scout food collections and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times per year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life for your children to serve regularly, even if this person doesn’t really need charity. We have a neighbor who lives alone and appreciates our left-overs so she doesn’t have to cook for one person. Our kids love to bring her food. One night they were all griping about how they didn’t like the dinner I made, until I asked them to bring a plate to our neighbor. Suddenly all the complaining stopped and they were out the door with her food, eager to have the opportunity to serve her.
  • Say “Thank you.” Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence, for example, “Thank you, Daddy, for making dinner.” Encourage school-aged kids to say thank you throughout the day, especially when you help them get ready for school or drive them to activities. Have them thank coaches for practice and music teachers for lessons.
  • Teach “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. It’s hard!

Kathleen Berchelmann, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kathleen is the co-founder and director of, a blog written by five dynamic mom-pediatricians who share their true confessions of trying to apply science and medicine to motherhood. Kathleen and her husband are raising five children.

Click here to read her complete article on fostering gratitude in your home.

Last Updated 11/23/2015. Source Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Berchelmann M.D., FAAP. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

A Parent’s Guide to Teen Parties


As a parent, you know the importance of your teen’s social life and that parties are a way to socialize and relax. But an unsupervised or poorly planned party can result in unwanted or even tragic consequences. However, parental responsibility is the key to a fun and safe party.

The following is important information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about teen parties.

Facts about Teen Parties

  • Guest List. When a teen plans a party, news spreads very quickly via social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Because of these new media, teen parties can grow too large for parents to control.
  • Time and Place. Teen parties often start late at night and move from house to house.

Facts about Alcohol and Drugs

Teens often expect alcohol and marijuana at parties. Some parents believe that it is better to allow teens to drink in their home so they can keep them safe. While this idea may be well intentioned, it is simply misguided. Parents cannot keep impaired teens safe.

Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment. Teens are more likely to have sex, be involved in a violent incident, or suffer an injury after using drugs or alcohol. All too frequently teens die from violence, unintentional injuries, or overdoses related to alcohol and other drugs.

Alcohol affects teens differently than adults. For example, compared with adults, teens are more likely to remain awake, to wander about, or to drive a car while having a much greater degree of mental impairment.

What Parents Need to Know

Communication and honesty are important to keep your teen safe. Teens whose parents talk with them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 42% less likely to use substances than those whose parents don’t. Tell your teens that you expect them not to use alcohol or other drugs at parties.

Parent networking is the best prevention tool to combat underage drinking. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. If your teen is planning on going to a party, call the parents to ensure that they will be home and that they will not allow drugs or alcohol. If this is not possible, don’t let your teen go.

Parents are legally responsible for anything that happens to a minor who has been served alcohol or other drugs in their home. If anyone brings alcohol or other drugs to your home, be prepared to contact their parents. And if someone comes to your home already intoxicated, make sure that they get home safely. Help your teen feel responsible for this as well.

Parents may be criminally or civilly liable if…

  • Alcohol is provided to a minor at a party they have organized.
  • Someone’s property is damaged.
  • Someone is injured.
  • Someone leaves and gets into a car accident and/or injures someone else.
  • Someone dies.

Understand the local laws about alcohol and other drugs. Laws about alcohol and drug use vary from state to state, so make sure you know what the laws are in your state.

If You Are Hosting a Teen Party…

  • Plan in Advance. Go over party plans with your teen. Encourage your teen to plan non-alcohol-related group activities or games.
  • Keep parties small. Ten to 15 teens for each adult. Make sure at least one adult is present at all times. Ask other parents to come over to help you if you need it.
  • Set a guest list. The party should be for invited guests only. No “crashers” allowed. This will help avoid the “open party” situation.
  • Set starting and ending times for the party. Check local curfew laws to determine an ending time.
  • Set party “rules” and your expectations. Discuss them with your teen before the party. Rules should include the following:
  • No tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
  • No one can leave the party and then return.
  • Lights are left on at all times.
  • Certain rooms of the house are off-limits.
  • Have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available. Also, put your alcohol and any prescription or over-the-counter medicines in a locked cabinet.
  • Be there, but not square. Pick out a spot where you can see what is going on without being in the way. You can also help serve snacks and beverages.

If Your Teen Is Going to a Party…

  • Know where your teen is going and how long he will be there. Have the phone number and address of the party. Ask your teen to call you if the location of the party changes. Be sure to let your teen know where you will be during the party.
  • Call the parent of the party host to make sure a parent will be home the entire time and supervising the party. Make sure that tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs will not be allowed.
  • Talk with your teen beforehand about how to handle a situation where alcohol is available at a party.
  • Make sure your teen has a way to get to and from the party. Make it easy for your teen to leave a party by making it clear that he can call at any time for a ride home. Discuss why he might need to make such a call. Remind your teen NEVER to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs.
  • Be up to greet your teen when he comes home. This can be a good way to check the time and talk about the evening.
  • If your teen is staying overnight at a friend’s house after the party, verify this arrangement with the friend’s parents and that they will be home.


The AAP Committee on Adolescence and AAP Section on Adolescent Health would like to thank the AAP Committee on Substance Abuse and AAP NY Chapter 2 Committee on Adolescence for their assistance in developing this publication. Last Updated 5/5/2015. Source A Parent’s Guide to Teen Parties (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Shyness in Children


My child is shy and does not make friends easily. Should I be worried?
Although childhood shyness is commonplace, it concerns many parents, especially those who place great value on sociability. Some children become shy because of harsh life experiences, but most are born that way. For some middle-years children, social situations and interactions can be terrifying. When they come in contact with new children, they rarely feel at ease. Typically, they are unwilling or unable to make the first move, preferring to abandon a potential friendship rather than reach out to the unfamiliar. A few of these timid children may be emotionally distressed, but they are in the minority. In fact, some children are just naturally withdrawn and slow to warm up in new situations.

Severe Shyness
In some cases, shyness can be disabling. Extremely shy children often do not adapt as well as most of their peers in the classroom and on the playground. The longer this pattern exists, the more difficult it is for children to change. Shyness can increasingly lead to purposeful avoidance of social settings and withdrawal, and ultimately create an inability to function effectively as a social adult. If your child’s shyness becomes debilitating, it may be caused by an anxiety disorder or a temperament pattern; then an evaluation by a child mental-health professional would be helpful.

Time to Adjust
Most shy children, however, do well in relationships and in social settings once they are past an initial period of adjustment. Children who have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships even after the ice-breaking period merit more concern and attention. Eventually, many (and perhaps most) children who are shy learn to conquer their tendency. They function in ways that are not obviously timid or reticent, although inside they may still feel shy. Parents can gently guide or direct their children into social situations in which they can learn to successfully interact.

Rejected Children
Most children want to be liked, yet some are slow in learning how to make friends. Others may long for companionship but might be excluded from one group or another, perhaps picked on because of the way they dress, poor personal hygiene, obesity, or even a speech impediment. Youngsters are often rejected by peers if they exhibit disruptive or aggressive behavior. Still other children may hover on the fringes of one clique or another but never really get noticed. These neglected children spend most of their time alone.

Rejected youngsters are overtly disliked by their peers and are constantly made to feel unwelcome. They often tend to be aggressive or disruptive and very sensitive to teasing. They may be bullies and rule-violators, or they may be so unsure of themselves that they invite the rejection of others. They might also be rejected because of their impulsive and disruptive behavior. Some of them may have attention deficits or hyperactivity.

Neglected Children
Neglected children, on the other hand, are not overtly rejected and teased but are often just ignored, forgotten, not invited to parties, and are the last ones picked for a team. These youngsters may be perceived as loners but might be passive and detest their isolation. Others may actually prefer to be alone. This latter group might be respected and admired by others but simply feel more comfortable in solitary pursuits or in spending time with parents, siblings other adults, or even pets. They may also lack the social skills and self-confidence necessary for them to enter social arenas, often because of limited social experiences. Or they may be more shy, quiet and reserved than most of their peers.

How Parents Can Help
Successful peer interactions require a variety of skills and special ways of interacting. Parents should look for these skills in their children and help develop and model them.

  • Coping with failure and frustration
  • Coping with success
  • Coping with change and transitions
  • Coping with rejection and teasing
  • Managing anger
  • Using humor
  • Forgiving
  • Apologizing
  • Refusing to accept a dare
  • Thinking up fun things to do
  • Expressing affection
  • Avoiding dangerous situations
  • Defending himself
  • Comforting someone
  • Sharing
  • Making requests
  • Self-disclosure
  • Giving a compliment
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Coping with loss
  • Sticking up for a friend
  • Doing favors
  • Asking for help
  • Helping others
  • Keeping secrets

Last Updated 5/5/2015. Source Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12. (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

A Lesson in Disobedience


From time to time most children defy the wishes of their parents. This is a part of growing up and testing adult guidelines and expectations. It is one way for children to learn about and discover their own selves, express their individuality, and achieve a sense of autonomy. As they stretch their independent wings and engage in minor conflicts with their parents, they discover the boundaries of their parents’ rules and of their own self-control.

Sometimes, however, these conflicts are more than occasional disturbances and become a pattern for how parents and children interact. Disobedience can have a variety of causes. At times, it is due to unreasonable parental expectations. Or it might be related to a child’s difficult or intense temperament, or to school problems, family stress, or conflicts between his parents.

In some instances these children have demonstrated a persistent pattern of disobedience throughout their development, beginning in their early years. They may resist authority by talking back to and disobeying their parents. They may stubbornly tell their parents no when asked to do something. In many cases this behavior occurs only at home; at other times it is a pattern with all authority figures (teachers, babysitters, grandparents) in all settings. This latter situation, of course, is of greater concern.

Other youngsters who are generally cooperative and agreeable may suddenly become disrespectful and disobedient during middle childhood. This is usually a sign that they are experiencing a lot of inner turmoil or that a significant new stress is occurring around them, such as abuse or school failure. Their hostility is directed toward the nearest target, those closest to them, and is a way of coping with and expressing the stress they feel.

Some children may have a lengthy history of being out of control and non-cooperative. This is a serious problem. When children have been disobedient for long periods—routinely talking back to and having outbursts aimed at their parents and others—there is often conflict and disorganization within the family as a whole. This might include harsh punishment and family relationship problems, including physical aggressiveness between family members. The children may reject their parents’ authority, feeling that their mother and father disapprove not only of their behavior but of them as people. Thus, these youngsters learn to be unhappy with themselves, and their self-esteem can suffer greatly. Gradually, if the family relationships continue to deteriorate, the children become even more angry, sad, hostile, and aggressive.

Many disobedient children do not adequately communicate the reasons for their sadness or discomfort, or their parents are unable to understand what they are trying to express. This breakdown in communication sometimes occurs if the child is not receiving enough parental attention, perhaps because his parents are preoccupied with their own lives, careers, and problems.

For some children, aggressive and disobedient behavior is a response to violence they see within the family. To youngsters raised in abusive environments, aggressive behavior may seem like a reasonable way to deal with anger or frustration or seem like the way to solve problems between people. Many families with disobedient children resort to physical abuse as one of their techniques for disciplining. But physical punishment leads to more aggressive behavior by the children, and a vicious cycle is established. Children raised in this type of setting are at much greater risk for lifelong problems with interpersonal relationships and authority.

As a parent, you need to keep in mind that middle childhood is a vulnerable period of life. Young school-age children are quite egocentric, thinking that all events that happen around them have something to do with themselves. For example, in families where there is marital conflict, youngsters may misinterpret this problem, concluding that they themselves have been bad and have upset their parents. In the process their self-esteem may suffer, and they may be more prone to reacting inappropriately to the events around them.

Last Updated 10/10/2014. Source Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Growing Independence: Tips for Parents of Young Children


Children Love to Learn

  • Open and honest communication will create a lifelong closeness with your child.
  • Routines and responsibilities will let your child know what to expect. When a rule is broken, a natural consequence needs to follow.
  • As you teach your child how to be independent, you also need to teach how to be safe.
  • Learning how to be a good friend is an important skill you can teach your child.
  • Your little one is starting to explore the world outside your home. This is exciting, but can be scary!

Set Limits
When children do something against the rules, explain simply and in a few words: that what they did was wrong, what will happen if the behavior continues. Consequences need to be logical, meaningful, and simple. For example, if your child rides a bike without a helmet, the bike is off limits for a day or two. When your child won’t share a toy, that toy can’t be used for the rest of the day.

Create and Keep Routines

  • Teach about rules by setting up daily routines. Children do best when they know what to expect.
  • In the morning: use the bathroom, get dressed, have breakfast. At bedtime: take a bath, brush teeth, read a story.
  • Schedule specific times for TV, video games, and use of the computer. When you know what your child is watching, you can avoid violence and other unacceptable content. Limit “total screen time” to no more than 2 hours a day.
  • Read at bedtime. This helps your child: settle down after a busy day, and learn how to read.
  • Have meals together as much as possible. This is a great way to spend time together and share family traditions, while also teaching good eating habits and table manners.

Take Time to Talk and Listen
Children feel important when adults take the time to talk with them. Talking often, and about many things, helps them gain self-confidence. Ask about friendships and the activities that your child enjoys. Talk about your own best and worst experiences.

Ask your child: “What was the best part of today?” or “What was the hardest part of today?”

Let your child know that it’s OK to have and talk about negative feelings. Share the best and hard parts of your day. This teaches your child that we all have ups and downs.

Assign Responsibility
When young children copy everyday household tasks, they are really learning how to contribute. With your support, tasks will soon be done with few reminders. As children grow older, they can begin to take on real responsibilities, such as:

  • Setting the table
  • Putting away their toys
  • Feeding the pets
  • Placing dirty clothes in a basket

Watch your child’s self-esteem grow when given the chance to help out.

Last Updated 5/11/2013. Source Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Everybody Gets Mad: Helping Your Child Cope with Conflict

A diverse group of children doing homework together outside.Help Children Act Calm

  • Let them know that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to stay and fight.
  • Teach them that fights don’t solve problems—they make new ones.
  • Remind them that when they get mad but don’t fight, they have really won.

Sometimes, getting along with other kids is hard. Some kids:

  • Get into fights when they are angry.
  • Get teased a lot.
  • Encourage others to fight.

This can make your child feel bad or get in trouble. Teach your child how to deal with anger and stay out of trouble.

Everyone Gets Mad
Anger doesn’t usually last a long time, but it is a very strong feeling when it happens.

Children get mad when:

  • Their feelings are hurt or they can’t do what they want.
  • Others don’t understand them or lie about them.
  • They feel left out or others don’t act the way they want.

When children are mad, their bodies react:

  • Their hearts beat faster and their faces feel hot and sweaty.
  • It might be hard to breathe and they can’t think clearly.
  • They have a lot of energy and want action.

When children are angry, it is:

  • Good to put their feelings into words.
  • Not good to hit someone, break things, or say things that hurt.

Teach Your Child to ACT CALM

When children get mad, they can ACT:


  • Acknowledge angry feelings.
  • Notice changes in their bodies.

Calm down

  • Breathe deeply, count to 10, or walk away.
  • Punch a pillow, run, or play music.

Think and Talk

  • Think about the problem and ways to fix it. If someone doesn’t know what children are trying to say or do, they need to explain themselves.
  • Talk with someone about being mad and ways to fix the problem without fighting. If there is nobody to talk to right away, stop and think, “This is why I’m mad and what I need to do is …”

If someone tries to start a fight, your child can be the one to stay CALM:

Calm down

  • Keep a safe distance from the other person.
  • Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Stay alert and stand tall.


  • Avoid name-calling or returning insults. It only makes things worse.
  • Avoid other kids who may want to fight. Try to talk in private with the kid who wants to fight.


  • Calmly listen to what the other kid says.
  • Ask, “What does this person really want?”

Move on

  • Find ways to solve the problem without fighting.
  • Use humor. “I wouldn’t want you to catch my cold.”
  • Give a reason. “We’ll both get thrown off the team if we fight.”
  • Walk away. If nothing else works, it’s best to walk away.

Children do what they see others do. You are your child’s most important role model. If your child is still having trouble getting along with other kids, talk with your pediatrician.

Last Updated 2/24/2015. Source Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Helping Children Handle Stress


In honor of STRESS AWARENESS MONTH, we’re wondering: “How can we help our children handle the stresses of everyday life?”

In middle childhood, pressures may come from a number of sources — from within the child herself, as well as from parents, teachers, peers and the larger society in which the child lives. Pressure can take many forms that challenge children and to which they must respond and, often, adapt. Whether these are events of lasting consequence like the divorce of their parents, or merely a minor hassle like losing their homework, these demands or stresses are a part of children’s daily existence.

Children welcome some events and are able to adapt to them with relative ease. They perceive other events as threats to their own or the family’s daily routines or general sense of well-being, and these stresses are more troublesome. Most stress faced by children is in the middle, neither welcomed nor seriously harmful, but rather a part of accomplishing the tasks of childhood and learning about themselves.

Youngsters may also worry about making friends, succeeding in school, combating peer pressure or overcoming a physical impairment. Whatever its form, if stress is too intense or long-lasting, it can sometimes take a toll on children. Clusters of stressful events seem to predispose children to illness. Major events, especially those that forever change a child’s family, like the death of a parent, can have lasting effects on children’s psychological health and well-being. Minor daily stresses can also have consequences. They can contribute to loss of sleep or appetite. Children may become angry or irritable or their school grades may suffer. Their behavior and their willingness to cooperate may change.

How Different Children Cope with Stress
Children’s temperaments vary and thus they are quite different in their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles. Some are easygoing by nature and adjust easily to events and new situations. Others are thrown off balance by changes in their lives. All children improve in their ability to handle stress if they previously have succeeded in managing challenges and if they feel they have the ability and the emotional support of family and friends. Children who have a clear sense of personal competence, and who feel loved and supported, generally do well.

Certainly, a child’s age and development will help determine how stressful a given situation may be. Changing teachers at midyear may be a major event for a child in the first grade and merely an annoyance for a sixth-grader. Being short may be a minor issue for a 5- or 6-year-old boy but a source of daily embarrassment for an adolescent. How a child perceives and responds to stress depends in part on development, in part on experience, and in part on a child’s individual temperament.

Ironically, many parents believe that their school-age children are unaware of the stresses around them and are somehow immune to them. After all, their children not only have all their basic needs met, but perhaps they also have a roomful of toys, friends to share them with, plenty of playtime, and a full schedule of extracurricular activities.

Yet children are very sensitive to the changes around them, especially to the feelings and reactions of their parents, even if those feelings are not communicated directly in words. If a parent loses a job, children will have to adjust to their family’s financial crisis; they must deal not only with the obvious family budgetary changes but also with the changes in their parents’ emotional states. Children may have to cope with a bully on the playground, a move to a new neighborhood, a parent’s serious illness or the disappointment of a poor sports performance. They might feel a constant, nagging pressure to dress the “right” way, or to achieve the high grades that can put them on the fast track toward the “right” college.

Stress and Today’s Middle-years Child
Some psychologists believe that today’s middle-years youngsters actually are faced with more stress than the children of previous generations were and have fewer social supports available. The change in family structure from the large, supportive, extended families (including both parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents) of previous generations, to the present high incidence of divorced families, single-parent families and stepfamilies has drastically altered the experience of childhood. Millions of youngsters must adjust to such changes.

Even in intact and stable families, the growing number of households with two working parents often forces children to spend more time in after-school programs or at home alone. For some children this loss of time with their parents is quite stressful. So, too, is the responsibility for caring for themselves and the family home and sometimes for overseeing a younger sibling after school.

Many children and their families are stressed by the multiple activities that fill children’s “free time.” Overscheduled children with inadequate “down time” can become exhausted.

Today’s children are also being raised in an era in which they are exposed to violence and peer pressure about sexual activity and drug use and are warned to be cautious about kidnapping, sexual abuse and other crimes. This sense that they are living in an unsafe world is a constant source of stress for some children. In short, today’s youngsters are regularly confronted with challenges to their coping skills and often are expected to grow up too fast.

Good and Bad Stress
Not all stress is bad. Moderate amounts of pressure imposed by a teacher or a coach, for example, can motivate a child to keep her grades up in school or to participate more fully in athletic activities. Successfully managing stressful situations or events enhances a child’s ability to cope in the future.

When the stress is continuous or particularly intense, it takes a toll on both the psyche and the body. Sudden stressful events will accelerate your child’s breathing and heartbeat, constrict her blood vessels, increase her blood pressure and muscle tension and perhaps cause stomach upset and headaches. As stress persists, she might be more susceptible to illness and experience fatigue, nightmares, teeth-grinding, insomnia, tantrums, depression and school failure.

Last Updated 11/1/2013. Source Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.