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Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Anxiety, fears and phobias are terms that are relevant and familiar to people of all ages. As adults we views these feelings negatively, but as kids we need to view them as normal and necessary even though they are uncomfortable and typically don’t feel very great. The reason for this to be viewed in a positive light with kids is the fact that it will prepare them to handle the unsettling experiences and challenging situations that are part of life.

Fears and anxieties are a normal part of being human. Anxiety is defined as “apprehension without apparent cause.” It usually occurs when there’s no immediate threat to a person’s safety or well-being, but the threat feels real. We all know that feeling of our hearts beating, stomach starts to knot up and perspiration begins, anxiety is uncomfortable, but it is also a tendency that keeps people alert and focused.

The feeling of anxiety in kids is new and unfamiliar, but it helps them learn and react safely in dangerous situations. For example, a kid with a fear of fire would avoid playing with matches.

The nature of anxieties and fears change as kids grow and develop:

  • Babies experience stranger anxiety, clinging to parents when confronted by people they don’t recognize.
  • Toddlers around 10 to 18 months old experience separation anxiety, becoming emotionally distressed when one or both parents leave.
  • Kids ages 4 through 6 have anxiety about things that aren’t based in reality, such as fears of monsters and ghosts.
  • Kids ages 7 through 12 often have fears that reflect real circumstances that may happen to them, such as bodily injury and natural disaster.

Signs of Anxiety

Typical childhood fears change with age. They include fear of strangers, heights, darkness, animals, blood, insects, and being left alone. Kids often learn to fear a specific object or situation after having an unpleasant experience, such as a dog bite or an accident.

Separation anxiety is common when young children are starting school, whereas adolescents may experience anxiety related to social acceptance and academic achievement. If anxious feelings persist, they can take a toll on a child’s sense of well-being. The anxiety associated with social avoidance can have long-term effects. For example, a child with fear of being rejected can fail to learn important social skills, causing social isolation.

Many adults are tormented by fears that stem from childhood experiences. An adult’s fear of public speaking may be the result of embarrassment in front of peers many years before. It’s important for parents to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms of kids’ anxieties so that fears don’t get in the way of everyday life.

Some signs that a child may be anxious about something may include:

  • Becoming clingy, impulsive, or distracted
  • Nervous movements, such as temporary twitches
  • Problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep longer than usual
  • Sweaty hands
  • Accelerated heart rate and breathing
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches

In addition to these signs, parents tend to have an excellent sense of knowing when their child is uneasy about something. They also know the best ways their children cope with stress and fears, so it is important to take the time to listen and talk about the fears, which could easily diminish the problem.

What’s a Phobia?

When anxieties and fears persist, problems can arise. As much as a parent hopes the child will grow out of it, sometimes the opposite occurs, and the cause of the anxiety looms larger and becomes more prevalent. The anxiety becomes a phobia, or a fear that’s extreme, severe, and persistent.

A phobia can be very difficult to tolerate, both for kids and those around them, especially if the anxiety-producing stimulus (whatever is causing the anxiety) is hard to avoid (e.g., thunderstorms). “Real” phobias are one of the top reasons kids are referred to mental health professionals. But the good news is that unless the phobia hinders the everyday ability to function, the child sometimes won’t need treatment by a professional because, in time, the phobia will be resolved.

Helping Your Child

Parents can help kids develop the skills and confidence to overcome fears so that they don’t evolve into phobic reactions. To help your child deal with fears and anxieties:

  • Recognize that the fear is real. As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to your child and it’s causing him or her to feel anxious and afraid. Being able to talk about fears helps — words often take some of the power out of the negative feeling. If you talk about it, it can become less powerful.
  • Never belittle the fear as a way of forcing your child to overcome it. Saying, “Don’t be ridiculous! There are no monsters in your closet!” may get your child to go to bed, but it won’t make the fear go away.
  • Don’t cater to fears, though. If your child doesn’t like dogs, don’t cross the street deliberately to avoid one. This will just reinforce that dogs should be feared and avoided. Provide support and gentle care as you approach the feared object or situation with your child.
  • Teach kids how to rate fear. A child who can visualize the intensity of the fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest, may be able to “see” the fear as less intense than first imagined. Younger kids can think about how “full of fear” they are, with being full “up to my knees” as not so scared, “up to my stomach” as more frightened, and “up to my head” as truly petrified.
  • Teach coping strategies. Try these easy-to-implement techniques. Using you as “home base,” the child can venture out toward the feared object, and then return to you for safety before venturing out again. The child can also learn some positive self-statements, such as “I can do this” and “I will be OK” to say to himself or herself when feeling anxious. Relaxation techniques are helpful, including visualization (of floating on a cloud or lying on a beach, for example) and deep breathing (imagining that the lungs are balloons and letting them slowly deflate).

The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them. Using these suggestions, you can help your child better cope with life’s situations. As your kids grow up remember fear and anxiety are a natural part of life, and those uncomfortable situations are what create and mold us into who we are in the future. Having the ability to handle less than desirable social situations is a great skill to have. Taking the time to talk with your kids about their fears can help them cope and even conquer the fears without additional help, so always take the time to genuinely listen to what is causing the fears.






Posted on: January 18th, 2012 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there’s one key book that captures a kid’s imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more fantasy-based ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids’ appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modeling reader behavior — always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, etc. Planting the reading seed in your kids will not only provide a lifelong hobby, but also reading is extremely instrumental in expanding vocabulary in a person of any age.

Here are Common Sense Media’s and Judy Kent’s best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:

Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. For babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it’s wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. You may have to read your kid’s favorite a hundred times, but just go with it. Your kid will remember the closeness as well as the story. And try nonfiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, whatever. For second through fifth graders, read those rich and meaty books that might be missed otherwise, maybe classics like Treasure Island orAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Many parents think that as soon as their kids learn to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. But kids still love it and benefit from it as they hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and just take it all in. Kids will get the idea that there’s something worthwhile in books and that there’s something special about time spent with a parent.

Start Young: The gift of literacy begins at birth. Infants respond to many elements of the read-aloud experience: the human voice and its expressiveness, the touch, smell, and color of books and the attention that is part of the endeavor.  Start the reading habit early by reading aloud daily. Experiment, using different voices and creating different sounds with words.

Savor the series: It’s common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment. Some reliable prospects: Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody for beginning readers; Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Percy Jackson series for middle graders; and Hunger Games, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Twilight (unless you think vampires are too creepy) for older kids.

Establish a Routine: Humans love routine.  We form habits simply by creating routines.  To instill the lifelong habit of reading, make it a priority each day. Each family must find a convenient time for reading each day. This may be snuggling and reading together just before bed or taking a few moments while dinner is cooking.  With younger children, it may be before naptime or the first activity after a nap.  It is also important for children to see the adults in their life reading. Create a time when the entire family reads – even though a child may not be an independent reader yet, he will happily “read” books with the rest of the family.  Modeling reading for pleasure and for information is vital.

Print Is Everywhere: Stop for a moment and think about the world we live in.  Print is everywhere! We are surrounded by words – street signs, billboards, grocery stores, the aisles at Target.  Parents may open this world to children simply by talking about what is seen, hunting for letters, finding words together or having children read signs at the grocery store.

Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they’re passionate about, fromgirl detectives to science fiction and fantasy. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s considered great literature (although some genre books are). Be happy that your kid is devouring books one after the other.

Feed the favorite-author addiction: Once your kids finds a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books — a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona). Middle grade: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book). Tweens and teens: Judy Blume (Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret) and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen).

Count on the Classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. There are no guarantees, but you could try introducing your kids to books you loved as a kid and see which ones click. Some good ones to try are the Dr. Seuss and Narnia books, Charlotte’s Web, and The Secret Garden. Check out our Classic Books for Kids list to find more.

Find Books About the Things Your Kid Loves: If your kid adores horses, try Black Beauty or any of the titles on our list of best Horse Books. If he’s wild about cars, trucks and trains, check out our list of Vehicle Books. Librarians, booksellers, and Internet searches will help you find books on any favorite topic.

Create a Space for Books: Books are appealing. They call you to worlds unknown; they are a source of information; they are friends waiting to happen. Books deserve a special place in a home. Work to create a home library. The library could be as small as a special crate with a place of honor in the family room or a closet transformed into a book nook. If possible, include cozy pillows, cushions or chairs that will accommodate at least one adult and one child. Fill the library with reading material – a variety of selections to meet the interests of the child.  Take advantage of the local library to keep the home library fresh and appealing.

Reading is an important activity for individuals and families. It may not be the easiest task to fit reading into your family’s lifestyle, but once each member finds a book they truly enjoy, it will be tough to get that book out of their hands! Make sure you set aside time for reading only — turning off the TV, computer, and cell phone. Encourage focused reading time, either for independent reading or reading aloud. Take preschoolers to story time hours at libraries and bookstores. For older kids, a parent-kid book club can be fun. Read to kids at bedtime. Provide time and space for your kids to read for pleasure in the car (if they don’t get car sick!), on vacation, after homework is done, on their own before bed. Warning: It could be habit-forming!

For more information visit


Judy Kent – Director of Admissions at Academy at the Lakes


Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Year after year electronics are always the top contenders for the most asked for gifts of the holiday season. If your kids unwrapped high-ticket electronics this year, they were in good company. E-readers, tablet computers, fancy phones, handheld game consoles, and even tricked-out learning tools for preschoolers were huge this holiday season.

This year’s topped any of the past devices by offering great advantages, like the ability to pack all of your kids’ books into one tiny digital device or practice math drills en route to their after school activities. But if you, like many, don’t read all of the fine print, these new products’ high-tech bells and whistles may catch you off guard.

Majority of the time when purchasing these devices, most parents are unaware of all of the fancy features that are packed into that mysterious gadget. That new tablet computer your daughter uses for book reports also lets her video chat with friends at midnight. The smartphone your son uses to text you for a ride also “helped” him rack up $60 in charges playing a certain app with in-game purchases. And many high-tech devices require consistent care and feeding by way of expensive software upgrades that really add up over time.

The manual that comes with the device may cover the basics, but when it comes to managing how your kids use them, that responsibility is up to you. As daunting as it is to figure out the features, learning the concerns for each device also off-putting for parents. To help you figure it out and save you some time, we’ve highlighted the top parental concerns for each of this holiday’s most popular electronics for kids.


WiFi, music, games, apps, social networking, and even ads are showing up on e-readers like the Nook Color and Kindle.

What to watch out for: Multimedia, Web access, price of books, ads

Multimedia: E-readers’ ability to play music, download apps, and read to your kid seems cool, but if your kids are opting for the entertainment rather than hitting the books, you may begin to feel that too much of a good thing defeats the purpose.
Web access: Some e-readers connect to the Web, play YouTube videos, do email, and even offer social networking.
Price of books: E-books may be cheaper than regular books, but because you can download books (and apps) whenever you want, costs can add up.
Ads: Some Kindle models run screensaver ads, so kids will see them when they power on.

What to do:


  • Create rules for reading times (many schools require a certain amount of minutes per night), and set aside different times for just plain fun.
  • If you can, turn off the extras until you know your kid can use them responsibly. (The Nook Color, for example, lets you block the Web browser.)
  • Keep an eye on your kid’s activities, and discuss responsible use. Or seek out e-readers designed just for kids or students that limit some of the Web options.
  • Find out whether your local public library offers e-books. Also, consider setting a monthly spending limit, and look into online e-book lending libraries. And about those ads: Talk to your kids about how companies use target marketing to captive audiences.
  • Look for books together: The beauty of online purchasing is that you can sort, search, and preview just about any book on any interest. Shop with your kids (and make sure they don’t have access to your credit card).



Their ease of use, range of apps, and connectivity features make tablets like the iPad 2, Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy Tab great as a combination family computer and entertainment hub.

What to watch out for: Video chatting, app purchases, and screen time

Video chatting: Camera-equipped tablets allow for video chatting, which is fine when it’s the grandparents — but less fine when it’s midnight and your kid is talking with who knows who.
App purchases: Kids can rack up fees both by downloading apps and buying items as part of their games (called in-app purchases).
Time-limits: Because tablets are so easy and fun to use, kids may have a hard time stopping once they get started. And kids can easily lose track of time (and stumble onto age-inappropriate sites) with a tablet’s easy Web access.

What to do:


  • Find games and apps that have real value. There are thousands of apps and games that are fun to play and also help reinforce what your child is learning in school.
  • Establish rules for safe and sensible video chatting, and use the device’s parental controls (or download a parental control app) to restrict access to specific features until you know your kid can use them responsibly.
  • Most devices allow you to password protect access to the device’s app store and can also prevent in-app purchases. Definitely make sure you talk to your kids about not buying things without your permission, because app creators can be very sneaky in the way they encourage users to buy stuff.
  • Enforce time limits and discuss the importance of staying on age-appropriate, parent-approved Web sites. Make sure you’re setting a good example by enforcing time limits on your own usage, too!



Smartphones — the ones kids really want — offer far more than the ability to text. Smartphones have cameras, video, games, location services, Internet access, and social networking.

What to watch out for: Round-the-clock socializing, download fees, social networking

Constant connection: Kids’ ability to be constantly connected to their friends via their phones can drain their time — and distract them — from their responsibilities. It’s hard for parents to know what’s going on in their kids’ lives when kids are always using the phone.

Download fees: Music, games, apps, movies, TV shows, and in-app purchases are all available through the phone without ever seeing actual money change hands.

Location services: Nearly all phones come with GPS, which can be used for safety reasons but can also be used to tell other people where to meet you using apps like Foursquare. GPS can also tag photos with their location, which follows the photo when it’s posted — unless you turn it off.

What to do:


  • Set rules for when kids need to be off their phones (during dinner and homework, for example) and when it’s OK to use them.
  • Many smartphones allow you to restrict access to app stores as well as set content filters so kids can’t download age-inappropriate movies and games. Consider giving your kid a pre-paid card to set up an online account.
  • Unless you use GPS for safety, turn it off, and have a serious conversation about how location services can compromise your kid’s safety.


Handheld game consoles

Game gadgets like Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP have morphed into full-fledged entertainment devices with rich graphics for games and movies, multiplayer options, Internet access, and social features.

What to watch out for: Age-inappropriate content, online interaction, price of games

Content: Just because the screen is smaller doesn’t mean that game violence doesn’t impact kids. In fact, screen quality — including 3D — makes games even more immersive. Kids can also download a huge range of movies and TV shows for their handhelds.

Online interaction: Multiplayer gaming, chatting, social networking — these features are all built into handhelds, and you probably won’t know who your kid is interacting with.

Price of games: The cost of games is probably one of the biggest shocks to parents of new handheld owners. They can set you back as much as $30 apiece.

What to do:


  • Check out the device’s parental controls and other settings that let you restrict the kind of content that can be downloaded. Help your kid choose quality, age-appropriate games and entertainment.
  • Establish rules around online communication — when, where, who — and check in with your kid periodically to see who he or she is interacting with.
  • Consider renting games through an online service like Gamefly. And be aware that game companies offer automatic, free downloads for some games. Many handhelds also let you wirelessly share content and games for free — a perk that somewhat offsets the cost of the games.


Learning tablets

Handheld devices like the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet, the VTech InnoTab Tablet, and the Vinci Touchscreen Mobile Learning Tablet offer younger kids learning and creative activities — many of which are taught by familiar Hollywood characters.

What to watch out for: Screen time, price of software, commercialized characters whose function is marketing, not education

Screen time: Reading, writing, phonics, counting — all are appropriate pursuits for preschoolers. But every minute spent in front of a screen is a minute not spent doing other activities that are also very important for young kids, like running, playing with others, and interacting with the adults in their lives.

Price of software: At upwards of $25 a pop, the programs that run on these devices aren’t cheap. And they’re proprietary — meaning they’ll only run on one device.
Branded characters: Kids gravitate toward characters they know and love, whether it’s a Disney princess or Thomas the Tank Engine. Make sure that there’s real educational value — and not a consumer come-on — inside the program.

What to do:


  • Use in moderation. Set age-appropriate screen limits — and remember to count total screen time (TV, computer, handheld) and balance your kids’ days so they get lots of different experiences to help them grow and develop.
  • Consider sharing programs with friends and family, look for discounted items, and –choose age-appropriate, quality software very carefully.
  • Look for programs that use unique characters who aren’t used to market other products.




Posted on: January 5th, 2012 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

With a new year, brings news resolutions. Sometime we do not successfully accomplish them due to lack of time or life stresses. When you become a parent, it is easy to put your kid’s health in front of your own. That is why creating exercises and activities that involve you and your kids will help you achieve you new year resolution. This exercise creates a great bonding experience between parents and children while helping parents visualize their own goals.

Step One:  Make a Vision Board

  • ·       Parents and children collect and cut out words, images, and artwork and take pictures of things they want or wish for. Divide into categories like Health, School, Family, Career, and Life…
  • ·       Glue the items on one board.  Be creative and have fun.  Add color, objects or write inspirational words across images.
  • ·       Hang the vision board in a prominent place in their room so they can reflect on it every morning before they get up and every night before they go to bed.  Tuck them in at night by talking to them about their vision board and reading a book that may be related to one of their goals. 
  • ·       For teenager’s and parents visit for great ideas on how to get the most out of your vision boards.

Step Two:  Write down your goals

  • ·       Have the entire family write down the things they want or wish for in life.  Again, they can use ideas that reflect Health, School, Family, Career, and Life…
  • ·       Each family member can read their list and explain the items they wrote down translating them into goals if they need it.  Parents can help children prioritize their list and make suggestions on how to achieve them.
  • ·       After the goals are organized they can start breaking each goal out to come up with a plan to achieve them.  Let the children come up with ways to achieve their goals.  Some may need guidance and be educated on what their goals may really entail, however you will be surprised how much they do know about things that interest them.
  • ·       Goals may need to be broken down.  For instance if they say “I want to be rich”, then this becomes an awesome opportunity to TEACH your kids the hard work, dedication, education it takes to reach that goal and to TEACH what it means to be “rich and happy”.

Step Three:  Celebrate and Reflect on the Achievements

  • ·       Once the first goal is reached be sure to celebrate this great achievement! Whether it’s yours or theirs!  Lead by example and involve them
  • ·       Discuss how easy it was to reach the goal when they took the time to think about it and work towards it.
  • ·       Make this an annual event you do together every January.  You can reflect on last year’s goals which will help make this year’s goals even easier.
  • ·       Encourage older children to keep a diary and/or blog about their experience.  The more they write about it the more they learn how to achieve the goals and believe in them.
  • ·       Hold on for the goal reaching ride.  Once they experience the sense of accomplishment, they will work even harder to reach other goals.
  • ·       Remember there is no better way to lead a good example and teach kids about what to do or not do when they become adults is for you to include discussion about your Vision Board and list of goals.

Children thrive on this quality time with their parents.  It gives them a great feeling of being a part of “Team Family”, a sense self-worth and confidence.  They learn that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.  Having a purpose and reaching goals will help them become happy, independent, successful adults and that is what we all wish for.