Fifteen-year-old Grace doesn’t know it yet, but her troubling anxiety symptoms—which include excessive worrying about her grades and the health of her family dog Rufus—are run of the mill. Like most anxious kids, it’s not the content of her worries that’s the real issue, but the way her mind and body react to them.
Troubled by their daughter’s symptoms and eager for her to succeed and feel safe, Grace’s parents regularly text her throughout the day to keep her from becoming anxious. But even with a crack team of protective adults working to make her feel secure around the clock, Grace still feels overwhelmed by her worries.
Enter Lynn Lyons, a childhood anxiety specialist and coauthor of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents. She’s worked with Grace and many other children whose worries are compounded by the hovering attention of anxious parents. In her Networker article “Taming the Wild Things,” Lynn writes, “Often in our anxiety to stop the anxiety, we surround the child with an anxiety-reinforcing system, comprised of family, school personnel, physicians, and even therapists, all fixated on protecting the child from any twinge of the dreaded disease.” This system “not only rewards the anxiety, but encourages it to consume ever more of the child’s life.”
In this brief video clip, Lynn encourages therapists to help parents find more effective ways to soothe their child’s anxiety. Instead of inadvertently ramping up their child’s fears, parents can provide more constructive support by addressing their own anxieties, remaining calm, and reexamining the ways they talk about their child.
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.
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.