The Smart Way to Talk to Teachers

Overwhelmed

The teacher says: "Your child seems anxious and stressed."

The right response: Make sure you understand the teacher's definition of anxiety. Ask about the symptoms: Is your child crying at certain times of the day? Does he complain of stomachaches and ask to go to the nurse frequently? "If your child has started biting his nails, it may just be a bad habit. But if he always liked school and now you learn that he's crying in class every afternoon, there may be a bigger problem," says Dr. Reiff. Perhaps your child is being bullied by another child at recess or he's intimidated by a particular teacher.

Creating a plan: Be empathetic -- "I bet it's scary when the music teacher asks you to sing a line in front of the class" -- then ask how you can make him feel more comfortable. Offer solutions if he's at a loss: Sing songs with him at home or have him practice taking deep breaths.

If he's afraid of a bully, first reassure him that the teasing isn't his fault and you want him to feel safe. "Tell him that bullying is never okay, and by talking to you and the teacher about the bullying, he's helping to solve the problem," says Dr. Fish. This encourages him to open up so you can get more details: Was the kid threatening him physically? Calling him names? The teacher and the administration should step in (most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying); they often recommend getting the other child's parents involved.

Following up: Keep in touch with the teacher and the school to make sure your child is more at ease. If he still seems worried, ask the teacher what else you can do to help.

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