A Stressed Schoolgirl and Wanting a Dog

By Catherine Pearlman

October 6, 2017 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My fun, bright, accomplished fifth-grader is stressed. She is teary at the drop of a hat, expresses feeling left out and articulates that she's overwhelmed by school. She says the trouble is keeping track of the multitude of notebooks and folders. She worries about upcoming work for the week and having so many things to remember. She seems to be alone a lot, too. What can we do to help her? — Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned: Your little girl is getting steamrolled by her world. It may seem hard to imagine why elementary school can be so stressful, but there are lots of moving parts. For some, it can feel like too much. Now is a good time to work on her issues before she moves into middle school, which has bigger challenges.

Though she may be excelling at school, your daughter's hanging on by a thread. Teachers often create a very regimented world at school, but home life is less so. I recommend some executive coaching to create systems to ease her burden. Working on planning ahead, organization and emotional regulation will greatly aid your daughter. Simple tips such as using a calendar, breaking up big tasks into smaller — and more manageable — ones and using breaks wisely could be lifesavers. Meditation or mindfulness might also be good coping strategies to minimize anxiety and stress.

Your daughter's social issues may clear up a bit when her stress level drops. But I'm wondering whether part of her stress is coming from a need for perfection. Holding oneself to high standards is terrific. However, having unreasonable or impossible standards is a recipe for frustration. Help your daughter see that failures are opportunities for learning and deeper growth. Make sure to focus on your daughter's efforts and not her outcomes. Even if she fails, let her know that life goes on. She's hard enough on herself; you don't need to be hard on her.

Dear Family Coach: My kid desperately wants a dog. I'm all for it, but my husband is a holdout, and his reasons are actually quite wise and practical. We are away from home most days and on vacation often. But I don't want to be practical; I want a dog! How do we settle this with an ending that satisfies everyone? — Needs a Fluffy Animal

Dear Needs: Your husband sounds careful, thoughtful and sensible. Those are important qualities when considering taking in a pet. Dogs are work, and they require loving attention from their humans. It's appropriate to consider your family's schedule and lifestyle before bringing home a dog.

However, I do think there are some very simple solutions to your husband's concerns. Some of the issues can be alleviated by finding a dog that is the right size and energy level for your family. An older dog might also be a good choice, because they generally don't require frequent potty breaks. Most dogs need to be walked three to four times a day. I'm guessing that with a child, you could probably accommodate that or find a neighbor or professional walker who could fill in for one shift.

Talk to your husband and ask him to go through the process of considering a dog. See whether he will suspend judgment and seek out insight from a shelter or breeder. These professionals can assist in finding the perfect pet for your family. Once you find the right dog for your unique needs, he may come around. If your husband remains unconvinced, consider changing your lifestyle to accommodate the dog. Or, worst-case scenario, buy a fish.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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