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Mother and baby blowing bubbles in the park.

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Parents have the ability to create a positive home environment for their children. We live in busy, stressful times and it might be a good idea to think about the type of home atmosphere you wish to have that will be optimal for your family’s health and well-being. 

Are you creating anxiety in your children? Research has found that parents who are themselves anxious may be unwittingly passing along this trait to their children. In fact, children of parents who have an anxiety disorder have a much greater risk of developing anxiety themselves (a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University showed that children are seven times more likely to develop anxiety themselves if their parents suffer from an anxiety disorder.) This can be attributed to a combination of nature (what is inherited) and nurture (the home environment.) 

We are unable to change our genetic vulnerability. So many traits, both physical and emotional, are inherited from both sides of a family. What is important and under our control as parents is our own behavior which we can control. Are we aware of how we tell our children about the world? Our children watch us and copy our behavior. Whether or not we realize it, we are modeling behavior for our children as we interact each day. Children pick up on their parents’ language, feelings, and actions.  

Starting each school day in a relatively calm manner provides children with a sense of security, consistency, and optimism. We are all bombarded with news on social media. Be careful of what you choose to share with your children. Warnings about terrorism in the world can cause them anxiety as they feel helpless to do anything in response. Being cheerful about the possibilities of what they may do each day creates a calm and clear blueprint of what they can be in charge of. In essence, we as parents need to be aware of the influence we exert in daily communications with our children. If you feel anxious yourself, try to control that in front of your children. Children who complain of stomachaches or headaches before school are often anxious about something. Parents need to figure out what is causing the behavior and then help their children develop coping strategies to alleviate it.  

Creating and maintaining a sense of calmness and consistency at home promotes our children’s ability to cope with everyday pressures. We as parents need to be aware of when we might be passing along our own fears and then nip them in the bud. If we are self-aware, we can then model realistic and healthy responses in our children to the many situations they face each day. A good motto is: “Keep calm and pass it on.”

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at



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