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Dear Teacher

Your Questions of Teachers-Answered

August 01, 2011
Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

Back to School Anxiety

Question: Every year my children and I have a fantastic summer. Then the first week of school comes, and their anxiety level suddenly rises to very high levels. How can we avoid this? — High Anxiety

Answer: Parents can make back-to-school time less traumatic by clearing their schedules so they can focus on being there for their children. The less parents have to do at home and on the job, the more relaxed they will be.

Children tend to be especially anxious if they are attending a new school or have had bad experiences the previous year. This is the time for parents to be calm, positive and reassuring. They also need to be careful not to overreact to problems that pop up in the first days and help their children develop coping strategies. If their children have been bullied or teased the previous year, their new teachers need to know about this during the first days of school to stop it from happening again.

Parents also can make the start of school more comfortable for their younger children by arranging play dates for them during the first weeks of school. This helps them rebuild social relationships with their classmates.

Too Much TV for Kids

Question: The TV is on in our house most of the day, but our young toddlers don't watch it much of the time. Is this truly bad for them? All we ever hear about are the negatives of young children watching TV. Aren't there any positives? – TV Lover

Answer: Shut your TV off. Hearing TV in the background results in toddlers doing less talking and less listening to others talk. You'll clearly see this if you observe them playing while the TV is on.

You really should follow the TV viewing guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy strongly recommends that children do not view TV until they are age 2. After that, the Academy suggests no more than 2 hours a day. These are sensible guidelines for parents to follow and really allow for a lot of TV viewing. You must understand that most of the day in early childhood needs to be devoted to active play to maximize intellectual development. Just think of all the other opportunities to experience the world that your toddlers are missing while watching TV.

There are other downsides to watching too much TV at a young age. Later on, some current research shows that you can expect many of them to have poorer achievement in math in school and to be less active physically. They are also likely to consume more junk food than those who have watched less TV.

Early TV watching has been completely demonized by most child-development experts. However, there actually are some positive benefits to preschoolers who watch programs with a strong Educational content. Later on, these children might read more and get better grades. Unfortunately, most children are not watching primarily educational programs.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have master's degrees in education and specialist degrees (Ed.S.) in reading. Peggy recently completed her doctorate in special education and educational leadership. Together, they have co-authored more than 70 books and in 2003, Peggy formed the not-for-profit foundation, Literacy Plus, to make literacy accessible to the homeless.

Tags: Education, In This Issue, Parenting

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