“Stress Bias” May Affect Scores

Testing may lead to “stress bias,” in which students who have spikes of the stress hormone cortisol get lower test scores, according to a study of 93 elementary- and middle-school students from three New Orleans charter schools. Researchers found that students living in areas with more crime and poverty are more affected by stress, and may be less able to “to reveal the things they likely know,” says Pamela Cantor, a psychiatrist and founder of an organization that works with children affected by trauma.

Dogs May Help Decrease Stress in Youth

A study in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology showed that children who played with trained dogs after undergoing a stressful task had greater gains in Positive Affect scale scores from baseline compared with those who received tactile stimulation and those in the sit and wait group. Researchers also found significantly lower State/Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children scores among those in the dog intervention group compared with those in the sit and wait group.

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The Science Behind Student Stress

new study finds that when students experience an academic setback such as a bad grade, the amount of cortisol—the so-called stress hormone—in their bodies typically spikes. For most students it drops back down to normal levels a day later, but for some it stays high. These students remain fixated on the setback and have difficulty moving forward.

The researchers analyzed the stress levels of students at two high schools in central Texas during an especially stressful time—the transition into high school. Students completed daily surveys asking about the stress they experienced, and daily saliva samples were collected to measure their cortisol levels.

A majority of these students—68 percent—experienced a drop in grades in the first semester and reported feeling stressed as a result. In how they handled that stress, two clear groups emerged. Students who believed that intelligence can be developed—a growth mindset—were more likely to see setbacks as temporary, and not only had lower overall cortisol levels but were able to return to lower levels shortly after a setback. Students who believed that intelligence is fixed, on the other hand, maintained high cortisol level for longer, said researchers—a stress response that tends to depress problem solving and intellectual flexibility.

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Parents May Benefit From Parent-Child Book Reading Interventions

Children who participated in parent-child book reading interventions had improved quality of life, social-emotional competence and reading interest, while their parents had improved reading attitudes and relationships with their children, increased parenting competence and reduced depression or stress, researchers reported in Pediatrics. The findings, based on a meta-analysis of 18 studies, also showed that the psychosocial benefits of parent-child book reading programs were observed across all age, racial and ethnic groups.

2 Minute Medicine

Help Teens Get the Sleep They Need

Starting around puberty, kids start getting tired later at night. While it might seem like they need less sleep, in fact, teens need about 9 hours of sleep at night. Unfortunately, most teens do not get the sleep they need.

What Makes it Hard for Teens to Sleep?

Several factors make it hard for teens to get the sleep they need:

  • Schedule. The average teen gets tired around 11 p.m. and has to get up between 6 and 7 a.m. to get to school on time. This makes it impossible to get 9 hours of sleep.
  • Homework. The push to succeed can backfire when kids sacrifice sleep to do homework. After a night of too little sleep, your teen may not be able to focus in class or absorb new material.
  • Texting. Even early evening texts can disrupt sleep. Hearing constant text alerts can make it impossible to wind down and relax into sleep.

What Parents can do

  • Make rules about bedtime. Set a bedtime for your teen, and yourself, and make sure you stick with it.
  • Limit nighttime activities.  Consider limiting the number of weeknights your child stays out past dinner.
  • Offer homework support.  If they have a heavy semester, help them schedule homework time and limit other activities.
  • Set technology boundaries.  You might make a rule that no devices are allowed in the bedroom after a certain hour.
  • Promote relaxing activities. In the hour or so before bedtime, encourage your child to do something relaxing. This might mean reading a book or taking a warm shower. Encourage your teen to explore ways to unwind so sleep can come.

Holiday Stress and Anxiety in Children: How Parents Can Help

The holidays are a fun and joyous time but also a very busy one, and holiday stress and anxiety in children can and does happen.  Here’s how you can reduce stress and anxiety in your children during the holidays.

1. Set a calm example. The most important way parents can help ease anxiety in children during the holidays is by trying to keep things relaxed as much as possible.  If you let holiday stress get to you, your kids will definitely pick up on it, and child anxiety is more likely to be a problem in your house.

2. Set up conditions for good behavior. Avoid taking your child to places such as the mall or holiday gatherings when he is hungry or tired.

3. Remember the importance of routines.  To minimize holiday stress in your kids, try to get routines back on track once an event or party is over.

4. Watch what she’s eating.  Try packing healthy snacks when you have to go shopping or run other holiday errands and try to minimize the amount of sweet treats at home.

5. Get your child moving. Fresh air and exercise are essential for boosting mood and re-setting the spirit, which can alleviate holiday stress and anxiety in children.

6. Avoid overscheduling. As tempting as it may be to accept every invitation from friends and family, try to limit your holiday parties and activities so that you and your child are not overwhelmed.

7. Have your grade-schooler help you. Giving your child a task will not only boost her self-esteem, it’ll distract her and help prevent any holiday stress and anxiety.

8. Schedule some quiet time.  Find a quiet corner and read a book with your child or create holiday pictures for grandma and grandpa. Take a walk outside in nature, away from noise and crowds and obligations.

9. Remind your child—and yourself—what the holidays are really all about. A great antidote for holiday stress and the bloated commercialism of the season is helping others, whether it’s by shoveling an elderly neighbor’s sidewalk or by wrapping presents for needy kids at your local church.


2 of 3 Parents Want Schools to Expand Health Education


Many parents want teachers to go beyond sex education and substance abuse issues in their health classes, a new poll finds.

Middle and high schools should teach kids how to cope with issues such as stress, depression, bullying and suicide, according to two out of three parents surveyed.

“These results suggest that the stigma of mental health issues may have relaxed among today’s parents, in favor of using a broad array of resources to help children and adolescents with these critical areas,” said Sarah Clark. She is co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

While two-thirds of those polled said health education programs should include topics such as stress and bullying, only one-third said their child’s school currently covers these topics.

Nearly seven out of 10 parents said basic first aid should also be taught, and 63 percent said their child should learn CPR, the survey results showed.

“Most parents today support traditional health education topics like pregnancy prevention, drug abuse and other risk behaviors that used to generate more debate in years past,” Clark said in a hospital news release.

“However, they clearly perceive a gap between what their children need and what they are receiving in the area of mental health education, as well as basic first aid and CPR,” she added.

Nearly 40 percent of parents said schools should teach children how to use the health care system. Only 10 percent said this topic is covered at their child’s school.

Pollsters cited several barriers to expanding health education. They include core academic requirements, student and parent choices for elective classes, and the cost of hiring more teachers. The researchers suggested schools recruit local health care professionals to provide CPR and first-aid training to students.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of parents polled said traditional health topics — such as sex education, pregnancy prevention, exercise, nutrition, and drug and alcohol abuse — were covered at their child’s school.

“Most parents believe schools are on the right track with what kids are learning in health education, but recognize that today’s youth face a growing set of issues impacting their health,” said Clark. “School leaders may consider ways to incorporate health topics in the classroom.”

Pollsters questioned a random sampling of parents with at least one child between 11 and 18 years of age. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points.

CHILL Counselor Talks to Students about Stress Management at WPHS 9th Grade Center

Winter Park High School 9th Grade Center CHILL Counselor, Caitlin McDonald, LMHC, recently talked with students about stress management and the CHILL program.  Students learned tips to help manage their stress and when it’s appropriate to utilize the CHILL program.
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For additional tips on how to help your child manage stress, check out these past posts from Healthy Kids Today:

Help Your Child Manage Stress

Maintaining Good Mental Health

Tips to Ease Testing Anxiety

To learn more about the CHILL program, click here.


Sports Injury Prevention Tips

More American children are competing in sports than ever before. Sports help children and adolescents keep their bodies fit and feel good about themselves. However, there are some important injury prevention tips that can help you promote a safe, optimal sports experience for your child.

Injury Risks
All sports have a risk of injury. In general, the more contact in a sport, the greater the risk of a traumatic injury. However, most injuries in young athletes are due to overuse.

Most frequent sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) strains (injuries to muscles), and stress fractures (injury to bone) caused when an abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscle. In a growing child, point tenderness over a bone should be evaluated further by a medical provider even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion.  Contact your pediatrician if you have additional questions or concerns.

To reduce the risk of injury:

  • Take time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week and at least one month off per year from training for a particular sport to allow the body to recover.
  • Wear the right gear.  Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear.
  • Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will prevent all injuries while performing more dangerous or risky activities.
  • Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
  • Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises after games or practice can increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.
  • Use the proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season.
  • Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
  • Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), and spearing (football), and checking in hockey should be enforced.
  • Stop the activity if there is pain.
  • Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing.

Sports-Related Emotional Stress
The pressure to win can cause significant emotional stress for a child. Sadly, many coaches and parents consider winning the most important aspect of sports. Young athletes should be judged on effort, sportsmanship and hard work. They should be rewarded for trying hard and for improving their skills rather than punished or criticized for losing a game or competition. The main goal should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.

 Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics

Take Your Test and Don’t Stress

This video, created by the daughter of a Brookshire Elementary staff member, encourages students to “Take Your Test and Don’t Stress.”