By Reid Wilson, PhD and Lynn Lyons, LICSW — Deerfield Beach, FL, – With anxiety at epidemic levels among our children, Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents (HCI Books — $14.95 – ISBN: 9780757317260 – September 2013) offers a contrarian yet effective approach to help children and teens push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy.
How do you manage a child who gets stomachaches every school morning, who refuses after-school activities, or who is trapped in the bathroom with compulsive washing? Children like these put a palpable strain on frustrated, helpless parents and teachers. And there is no escaping the problem: One in every five kids suffers from a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately, when parents or professionals offer help in traditional ways, they unknowingly reinforce a child’s worry and avoidance. From their success with hundreds of organizations, schools, and families, Reid Wilson, PhD, and Lynn Lyons, LICSW, share their unconventional approach of stepping into uncertainty in a way that is currently unfamiliar but infinitely successful.
Using current research and contemporary examples, the book exposes the most common anxiety-enhancing patterns—including reassurance, accommodation, avoidance, and poor problem solving—and offers a concrete plan with 7 key principles that foster change. And, since new research reveals how anxious parents typically make for anxious children, the book offers exercises and techniques to change both the children’s and the parental patterns of thinking and behaving.
This book challenges our basic instincts about how to help fearful kids and will serve as the antidote for an anxious nation of kids and their parents. Readers will learn the difference between healthy worrying and debilitating anxiety and gain concrete skills to parent children and teens. Action, not avoidance, is the key to success. By following this powerful program, children will gain the encouragement to realize their independence and courage.
Free E-Book! Inside every copy are instructions for downloading Casey’s Guide, which puts the key principles in language that resonates with kids.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Reid Wilson, Ph.D. is the Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is author of Don’t Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks and the coauthor of Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions.
Lynn Lyons, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice and a sought-after speaker and consultant. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders in adults and children, including generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and performance anxiety.
Are kids more anxious these days? Why?
Anxiety disorders on are the rise in both kids and adults. It’s the number one reason why parents bring a child to a mental health professional. These are stressful times, and kids are exposed to more and more information about the scary and dangerous aspects of being human. There’s certainly more to be concerned about in the world, but making it even worse is the constant exposure kids and their parents have to every tragedy, accident, crime, disease, etc. Parents today are also more anxious and depressed than ever, and anxious parents, unfortunately, tend to raise anxious kids.
Does anxiety run in families?
The research says yes, though many factors contribute to this. We know there is a genetic component to anxiety (although there is no “anxiety gene”) but how families interact, the amount of risk that’s tolerated in a family, and the depression and anxiety of a parent all contribute to the level of anxiety in children. A catastrophic view of life and little tolerance for uncertainty and risk are attitudes and perspectives that parents teach to children, whether they know it or not.
How do parents make anxiety worse? Or better?
Parents that teach their children that the world is a dangerous place, allow their child to avoid any discomfort or experiences of failure, express their own fears in front of the children, or thwart a child’s sense of independence tend to make anxiety worse. Parents who allow children to fail at times, support independent problem solving, give kids space to experiment and take reasonable risks, and are aware of their own fears and worries (without projecting them onto their children) make anxiety weaker rather than stronger.
How do we know the difference between normal worries and problematic worries?
Worry is normal, so the goal is not to eliminate worries from a child’s world. When kids grow and step into new experiences, they should have questions and uncertainties. Worry becomes a problem when a child is consistently avoiding activities or experiences that are a normal part of development, such as going to school or visiting friends’ houses, or sleep issues. A fearful and often dramatic refusal to try anything that is not familiar and predictable is another warning sign. Anxious children become avoidant and rigid in their daily routines, too, so that’s another sign to monitor.
Do kids grow out of anxiety?
Once anxiety becomes a problematic pattern, it usually gets stronger over time rather than weaker. The coping strategies that anxiety demands become more and more powerful because they work so well in the short term. Kids (and parents, too) do very well once they learn new skills and know how to react and respond differently to anxiety when it shows up.
How is your book different than other books on children and anxiety?
Most books on anxiety spend time discussing the several different anxiety diagnoses, for example social anxiety, separation anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder. Our book offers a “process” that works for all types of anxiety. We don’t focus on the specific content of each worry, but on the commonalities of anxiety that show up again and again in anxious children and adults.
Our book also talks very candidly about what parents need to do differently if they have an anxious child, because statistically there’s a very high chance that at least one of the parents is anxious as well. It’s not about blaming the parents, but informing them of the ways that they can shift their own reactions and patterns when dealing with their children. The research is rather clear that anxious parents create anxious children, but it’s also clear that parents can make a huge difference once they learn more about anxiety’s trickery.