Health tip of the Week

Check in with the children for stress and anxiety


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 – we will be keeping them warm and dry, feeding them with nutritious food and ensuring they get enough exercise.

But family health also runs a lot deeper and some children may not be coping well at school and without unburdening themselves to their parents, 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.

But 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.

“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.”

If the child really doesn’t seem happy, the Wexford-based expert says parents should find a quiet time to have a chat about the situation.

“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 are getting in trouble and need to sit away from giddy classmates or maybe they 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.”

Health Tip of the Week is sponsored by Pfizer as part of its Healthy 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 improve your health. See irishtimes.com/sponsored/healthy-town