When it comes to treating anxious kids, the same rules for treating anxious adults don’t apply. According to therapist Lynn Lyons, you might not only need to adjust your behavior—for instance, acting more playful or doing away with bland history-taking—but you also need to create an expansive support system that keeps the momentum from therapy gains going.

Here, Lyons shares the first steps she takes when a family with an anxious child comes into her office, as well as advice on using technology in your work.

As Lyons explains, involving parents in therapy can make all the difference. Anxiety is also often a learned behavior, she adds. “I tell parents, ‘if it’s nature, it’s you. If it’s nurture, it’s you,'” she says.

But the first step, Lyons says, is to normalize, normalize, normalize. “Worried parents and their anxious kids have frequently been told by professionals that their child may have a serious, possibly permanent mental illness,” Lyons says in her Networker article. “A ho-hum response tends to both reassure the child and his parents that their situation isn’t uniquely terrible and model for the parents a way they can lower their own emotional temperature—which is critical for calming their child.”

Lynn Lyons

Lynn Lyons, LICSW, is a speaker, trainer, and practicing clinician specializing in the treatment of anxious families. She’s the coauthor of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents and is the co-host of the podcast Flusterclux. Her latest book for adults is The Anxiety Audit.

Chris Lyford

Chris Lyford is the Senior Editor at Psychotherapy Networker. Previously, he was Assistant Director and Editor of the The Atlantic Post, where he wrote and edited news pieces on the Middle East and Africa. He also formerly worked at The Washington Post, where he wrote local feature pieces for the Metro, Sports, and Style sections. Contact: clyford@psychnetworker.org.