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K-12 back-to-school story ideas

By Cheryl Walker
336.758.5237
June 19, 2006

MOVING TO A NEW SCHOOL — Moving to a new school can be difficult for children, but parents can help ease the transition, according to Donna Henderson, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University and co-author of "The Handbook of School Counseling." "The transition from one school to the next is a point at which children have more opportunities for trouble," said Henderson, whose family moved more than a dozen times before she graduated from high school. First, demystify it, she said. "Let the child know what to expect," she said. "Don't tell them horror stories about your own experiences."

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TRACKING TEENS — Keeping track of what teenagers are up to without being too intrusive can be a challenge to parents. According to Wake Forest University psychology professor Christy Buchanan, adolescents do best when they feel both "trusted and watched" by parents. "Adolescents want to know their parents are looking out for them, but they don't want to feel like every detail of their lives is being monitored," Buchanan said.

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TEACHERS AND TECHNOLOGY: WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW — The more parents know about the technology available to teachers, the better they can help their children make the most of it, according to Ann Cunningham, associate professor of education at Wake Forest. "Technology helps improve communication between teachers and families (through) e-mail, Web sites, newsletters and postcards," Cunningham said. "These techniques save hours of valuable teacher time and make communication with home easy to do with greater frequency." But, Cunningham said teachers are more likely to update class Web sites and use other technology resources when they get positive feedback form parents and students. Parents also need to know what technologies can help their kids if they are struggling in school.

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SIMPLE CHANGES FAMILIES CAN MAKE TO BE HEALTHIER — The new television show "Honey, We're Killing the Kids" takes a dramatic, intervention-style approach to combating childhood obesity. According to Patricia Nixon, associate professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University, families need not go to such dramatic lengths in order to change. "The most important thing is, parents need to be good role models," Nixon said. "If the parents don't exercise or eat healthy foods, why should they expect their children to adopt those habits?" Nixon said parents can initiate simple changes to encourage healthier habits. "Setting time limits on sedentary activities, such as watching television, can help children and parents become more active," Nixon said. Nixon acknowledged that certain situations, such as limited time and financial resources, can stand in the way of a family's best intentions, but that a little creativity can help eliminate obstacles. "Exercise doesn't have to cost anything, or be continuous activity for an extended period of time," Nixon said. "It can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood or the nearest mall, or putting on some music and dancing around the house for 10 to 15 minutes." Nixon was one of 13 panelists to recommend that children and teenagers need 60 minutes of daily, moderate to vigorous activity. The recommendations were published in the June 2005 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.


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