Powerful and Practical Strategies to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Phobia, and Worries, by Tamar E. Chansky, PhD
Is your child constantly checking her backpack to make sure she’s loaded it up with everything she needs for school? Perhaps you learned your son stopped playing with the kids at school preferring to stay help his teacher prepare for the afternoon. Maybe you recently learned your child eats his lunch in the school restroom instead of in the cafeteria. These are a few snippets of example child fears and anxieties used in the introduction of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar E. Chansky, PhD.
While adults also suffer from anxiety, they may become reclusive, turn to drugs or alcohol and display “adult” symptoms. Anxiety in children is evidenced in odd, but sometimes misunderstood behavior. Children with anxiety disorders tend to suffer in silence. Often they are exemplary students, but may be obsessive about “checking” things and distance themselves from classmates.
Dr. Chansky references a study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology stating that over 13 percent of children have an anxiety disorder. In fact, most adults with an anxiety disorder state that they knew the condition began in their childhood. They carry it into their adult life because this disorder just doesn’t go away with the passage of time. Anxiety disorders are treatable and over $42 billion are spend annually on medical care.
Is your child wired for worry? In fact, many adults who experience anxiety disorders don’t realize that their children may also be predisposed. Often people believe their constant worrying is a normal condition. In fact, they’ve never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and never treated. So when a child starts to present symptoms of excessive worrying, parents just think she’s “momma’s girl alright.”
According to Dr. Chansky, this obsessive worrying is not a normal condition and can be eliminated. By catering to worries we actually are rewarding our brain functions which in turn cause an increase in anxiety and a constant cycle of worry feeding worry. Once we recognize this cycle, we can embrace transformation to “reroute” the worry process.
Dr. Chansky believes that parents can only support a transformation in their child when they take the lead by rerouting their own worry processing. Instead of protecting children from hurts, embarrassments and failure, parents should demonstrate how moving forward “with fear” is how we surmount life’s obstacles. Once children learn how fear works, they realize that things actually become easier the more they work through them. Basically, parents have to demonstrate and support their kids whenever they step out into the world and face their fears. It’s as critical as learning how to read, write and use a calculator (some people still cipher on paper). The premise of this book is the greatest gift a parent can give to a child is to teach them how to take small steps to managing their fears and worries.
Freeing Your Child from Anxiety is organized into three parts. In the first part, the author discusses the causes of anxiety in children and how it’s diagnosed and treated. In the conclusion of Part I, you are provided with a “Master Plan” which is a six step program which addresses most anxiety situations. The second part deals with different types of anxieties including worry, phobias, social anxiety, separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, tics and bothersome habits. You learn how to adapt your Master Plan to your child’s situation. The last section looks at real-life conditions affecting your child’s anxiety level. This includes school, family life, siblings, and sleep. Yes, going to bed can be a source of anxiety for children.
Dr. Chansky lays the foundation for understanding fear and anxiety. Fear is a naturally occurring condition humans “enjoy.” Our Neolithic ancestors lived hour by hour constantly on alert for dangerous creatures and situations. When their neck hairs lifted, there was a very good chance that there was impending danger. Today, that’s a physical reaction buried in our DNA, but in most situations having the hairs raise on your neck doesn’t lead to a life threatening attack.
In modern western cultures, fear is a biological response with emotional overtones. It begins when we are confronted with a peculiar situation and work through the response. Some of us master the experience and move on to the next challenge while others seek shelter and avoid it.
The point – fear is natural. And when parents and their children understand this then fears can be managed. Too often people are embarrassed by their angst. Parents are embarrassed when they learn how their child is behaving. In many cases it seems to be an irrational response, but in fact the child is seeking to protect himself from danger, real or otherwise. Fear is a necessary function for our survival. The challenge is learning how to work through the fear.
Genetics research supports the idea that a predisposition to anxiety disorders is determined by the gene pool. Children of anxious parents are seven times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than children of non-anxious parents. However, genetics can be attributed to only about 30 to 40 percent of child anxiety cases. This means that parents who haven’t suffered with anxiety or worry disorders may still have children who do have anxiety disorders.
In fact, there are 3 contributors forming your child’s level of anxiety. Children’s anxieties are a unique combination of genetics, temperament, and experience in the world.
It’s hard to think of a parent who wouldn’t benefit from reading Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. In the US, we thought the world was turned on end with the 9/11 terrorist attack, but that was only the beginning. Today, we have children terrorized in schools, shopping malls, and movie theatres. Children of the 20th century feared losing their parents to sickness. Moms and dads today are warriors on the battlefield and in the classroom.
More than ever our children face the potential of losing parents, dealing with cruel attacks by bullies in school, and even facing death by the hands of their own classmates or neighbor. There is so much opportunity for kids to let their worries take over leaving them frozen in fear. They have to know how to deal with real and manufactured fears. Our children must learn how to deal with fears and anxiety so they can have a confident and fulfilled life. Here is the link to the book.