Parents alleviate social stress for kids by lending a listening ear

Family Nurse Practitioner Robin Allen says relationships with friends and peers at school can sometimes create stress for children. (FILE).

December is Less Stress Month, and experts say children can sometimes experience anxiety over relationships with their classmates and friends.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health Family Nurse Practitioner Robin Allen about how improving parent/child communication can help alleviate some of that social stress.

Allen said before children will clue parents in about an issue at school, they have to trust that the adult is ready to listen. She said that trust-building process should start early. "It's very important to keep those lines of communication open, and that's something we should start when kids are preschoolers or toddlers," she said.

Allen said it starts with parents staying tuned in to how their kids are doing, even if it feels like an uphill battle. "When my son comes home from school every day, I ask him how was your day. Sometimes I get a response of 'I don't know...' or, 'it was fine,'" she said. "Other times I'll ask, 'Well what did you do today?' Still, it can be easy for them to say again, 'I don't know or I don't remember.'"

She said that's when parents should focus on asking detailed questions. "Really try to make those questions more specific, such as 'who did you eat lunch with, you did you play with at recess'; for older kids, 'what activities do you have coming up," she said.

Allen also advised that parents should try to withhold any scolding or judgment for a later time, especially with teenagers. "With older kids, just explaining to them and letting them know you want open lines of communication. You're always there for them, you're always there to listen, it's never anything judgmental, it's never gonna be that they're in trouble - you just want to know how their day was," she said.

Finally, she suggested trying to make "checking in" with your children an everyday occurrence - and try to share something about your day too. "When you're used to sitting around the dinner table, parents talking about their day, kids talking about their day... it feels much less like an interrogation, and more just like family conversation," she said.

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