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Little Worriers

Ever since Braeden Schneider, 5, of Raleigh, NC, saw the police pull over a speeding motorist, he worries about whether his parents are obeying the law. "As soon as we get in the car," says his mom, Kelly, the questions start: "Are we going the speed limit, are we stopping at the red light, and on and on."

Some kids fret over what seem like unnecessary things to moms and dads. Why should she be so concerned about whether there's milk in the fridge when there's pretty much always milk in the fridge? "Worrying is a step in your child's development as she makes the transition from the magical thinking of a small child to more concrete thinking," says Barry Anton, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She's more aware of what it takes for life to run smoothly, and because so many of those things are beyond her abilities or control, they weigh on her mind.

To calm your little worrywart:

Reassure her, then move on. When Schneider's son frets about her driving, she tells him that she's not speeding, then redirects his attention by asking about school or his friends. Doing this helps him see that she has a handle on the situation -- and distracts him.

Help her figure out what to do. If she's concerned about something she actually could have some control over, show her she can handle it. Worried she won't be able to find her cubby on the first day of school? Say, "Whom can you ask for help?"

Don't you start to worry. If your child's daily activities aren't affected, relax. Says Anton, "Keep in mind that worrying is a sign that kids are absorbing and processing the world around them."

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