School stress: panel discussion looks at ways to ease it

It is no secret Wilton is a high-achieving town when it comes to its schools and its students’ achievements. But what is the emotional cost to students, parents and families?

High school, with college applications and acceptances — or non-acceptances — looming can especially trying. Add to that the rest of life — work, sports, community service, keeping up with friends — and emotions can boil over.

To address these issues, Wilton High School’s Project 2016 — which involves the current junior class — will present a panel discussion on school stress Wednesday, Oct. 29, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Trackside Teen Center, 15 Station Road.

The program will feature three speakers: Jill Barron, MD., therapist S. Kate Venison, and parent Genevieve Eason.

Ms. Eason, who is coordinating the event, said Dr. Barron and Ms. Venison will talk about adolescence and school stress. Ms. Eason will share her personal experiences raising three daughters who are in eighth grade, 11th grade and college.

Most of the evening, however, will be devoted to questions from parents in the audience.

“This is a topic I find parents talk about so often,” Ms. Eason said in an interview on Thursday, Oct. 23. “They’re stressed out, they’re stressed out about their kids’ stress.

“There is so much stress, it’s a feedback loop between parents and kids. Where is the kid going to go to college an how are we going to get them in?”

Parents, she said, need guidance on how to manage that anxiety. “How can they help their children and make these a happy four years rather than a spiral of stress?”

Sometimes the anxiety gets out of control and Ms. Eason advised “we need to calm ourselves down.

“That needs to start with parents having a better handle on what really is important and what isn’t as important. What they can let go of.

“Parents are trying to do what’s best for their kids,” she added. “It’s defining what’s best for our kids is where we have to start.”

Although the program is designed for parents of high school students, she said middle school parents might want to consider going. “It might influence how they approach the high school years,” she said.

Anyone with questions may email


Dr. Barron is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist who trained at the Yale University School of Medicine where she received her master’s in health sciences and is currently an assistant clinical professor. She has served as the president of the CT Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Yale.

Dr. Barron is a consulting psychiatrist to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) where she treats firefighters with PTSD from the events of Sept. 11, 2001. She served as an adviser to leadership in Newtown in the wake of the Sandy Hook Tragedy.

Dr. Barron served as a consultant to the UN/UNICEF in Post Soviet Georgia where she was on a multidisciplinary team charged with creating a comprehensive National Early Childhood Development Program. Whether working with an individual, a family, a community, or a country, Dr. Barron takes a highly trained approach to creating specialized supports to meet their needs.

Ms. Venison is a graduate of Fairfield University Marriage and Family Therapy program. She has worked extensively with families experiencing high levels of distress and trauma, including those families with legal and multiple agency involvement, families dealing with divorce, chronic illness, domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Currently the clinical head of Stratford Community Services, Ms. Venison also has a passion for training and working with interns and new therapists, in addition to working with individuals, couples and families in private practice.