Anxiety can be hard on adults. Imagine what it can be like for kids. “We are definitely seeing increasing levels,” saysDr Helen Clark, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. In fact, one out of eight children are troubled by anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Anxiety disorders shouldn’t be brushed aside as research shows that children with anxiety disorders are more likely to do poorly in school and shy away from social experiences. So, how can parents best deal with the anxiety of their children? A recent study, published in the journal Clinical Child And Adolescent Psychology, says Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be the most effective.
The study involved analyzing 111 studies published between 1967 and 2003 that tested different types of treatment for child and adolescent anxiety. They found that CBT had the greatest long term benefits across the most diverse cross-section of kids. It was also the most effective and appropriate first-line treatment for children.
What exactly is CBT? Often used to treat depression, the goal of CBT is “to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel,” according to Psych Central. “CBT is based on a model or theory that it’s not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them.”
With kids, CBT helps kids to have a more realistic version of situations and teach them how to cope with their anxious thoughts. Part of a child psychcologist's therapy is to break the challanges a child face into into small, manageable steps so they can face the a problem instead of running away.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented treatment. It typically takes around five to ten months, with one session per week that lasts approximately 50 minutes long.
You can help your child by learning calming phrases that allow him to tell you their anxious moments and process it. Instead of saying "Stop crying," for instance, try “I get scared/nervous/anxious sometimes too. It’s no fun.” Giving him the time and space to work on it is crucial; you need to be patience.
Clinical psychologist Lyn Lyons, in her book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children, suggests that parents let their children know that some level of uncertainty is fine; it’s okay to not know what will happen next. In addition, talk about possible scenarios that can happen so they know what to expect.
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And, of course, be a good example to your child too. “If they see you panic, they’ll panic also. You have to compose yourself and do everything you can to help the kids,” saysMary Uy, a preschool teacher and mom of two. “Kids need the reassurance that everything will be okay, and that we parents can also roll with the changes.”