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Science to Parents: 'Chill Out'

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario) , April 9, 2004


A study to be published in the June issue of the journal First Language found that preschoolers who can tell a good story are likely to be stronger in math skills several years later. This study was conducted by University of Waterloo psychology professor Daniela O'Neill.

Professor O'Neill said:

"Some people see these things as child's play as if it's not a serious enterprise. But we tell stories to ourselves to understand the world."

Parents play an important role in developing those skills. Dr. Carole Peterson of Memorial University of Newfoundland says research shows that children with strong narrative skills are most likely found in families where the parents ask a lot of open-ended questions the whys and hows and encourage their children to elaborate in conversations, talk about past events and stick to topics that interest their kids.

However, parents who strive to give every advantage to their children may be damaging them. An American analysis in 2003 found that upper-income suburban youth reported higher levels of anxiety, depression and related substance abuse than low-income and predominantly minority youth a finding the researchers linked to higher at-home expectations.

But by talking a lot to children and building conversation on what interests them, researchers would say that their parents are doing a lot right.

Subjects Covered: education

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