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GIVE CHILDREN WHAT THEY NEED

Parents in general are "doing a darned good job," says child care expert Kathleen Romer, of Gateway Youth and Family Services.

She gives this advice for parents who want to raise healthy, happy kids:

"Make sure what you demand of your child is what your child needs, not what you need. Parents go through hoops to make sure Johnny gets into the trendiest preschool program, but Johnny may not be able to handle that pressure.

"Listen to what your child is saying. More than the words, look for the emotions behind the words -- what the words are hiding."

And get help at the first sign of trouble -- "when your youngster's behavior changes dramatically. Once they were outgoing, now they're sullen and quiet. Once they were part of a family, and they now stay in their rooms or they're never at home. They're stumbling, nodding off, coming in at unacceptable hours. Their actions are disrupting the entire household.

"Their grades fall off. You hear Johnny wasn't at school last week. You know he left for school."

-- Louise Continelli

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