ANXIETY IN CHILDREN AND OTHER FAMILY ISSUES
Today we’re joined by Dr. Jacque Bogdanov, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety and behavioral issues in children. Dr. Jacque is trained in using CBT and PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy) and was kind enough to take the time to talk about anxiety issues in children and families in general. It’s a good listen full of great info!
- In general, the same rules apply to anxiety disorders in children. The recommended treatment for anxiety in kids is CBT, just like it is for adults. The key difference when dealing with children is that parents and other important adults are also involved in treatment, so a therapist must also work with them and involve them in the treatment plan.
- When treating anxiety in children, it can be really important to keep it fun, interesting, and feeling safe. Therapy is difficult. Facing fear is difficult and scary. When dealing with children it becomes more important to wrap those difficult, scary things in a more “kid friendly” wrapper that includes plenty of relatable metaphors and even use of rewards when appropriate.
- When treating anxiety in kids, a good therapist must also coach parents and caregivers on the most productive way to participate in treatment. Teaching parents that encouraging and empowering is preferable to protecting or soothing is important. Parents want to protect and soothe their children. This is normal, but when helping a child overcome an anxiety problem shielding a child and soothing fear generally makes things worse. Parents must allow anxious children to face fear and learn to navigate through that.
- Research is showing that having parents participate heavily as coaches and “assistant therapists” is highly effective! At least as effective as having a therapist without parent participation.
- “Can I pass anxiety on to my kids? Will they have it because I do?” The answer is … maybe. For the most part, you cannot control this. You can do your best to model a healthy response and relationship with anxiety for your kids.
- Parents with anxiety issues can build a whole array of skills useful in relating to anxiety. These skills can be imparted in the case where their kids also develop anxiety problems. Anxious parents in active recovery can make excellent guides for anxious kids!
- “Should I hide my anxiety from my kids?” A few rules apply here. We need to teach our children that negative emotions and feelings – including fear and anxiety – are part of life. Modeling a healthy relationship with these things is the best way to “reveal” your anxiety to your kids. Also, we do not want to ever make our kids feel responsible for “fixing” our anxiety or making us feel better. “Dad is feeling afraid and anxious right now, but I will be OK. I am going to take a few minutes to handle this and I will be OK”.
- Avoidance in kids can be sneaky. Parents should pay attention and be careful not to confuse anxiety and fear driven avoidance with bad behavior or rebellious streaks.
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