Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents by Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons

Anxious Kids, AnxiousParents:  7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycleand Raise Courageous and Independent Children by Reid Wilson PhD and Lynn Lyons LICSW is a wonderful resource for parents who struggle with how to best approach the natural anxiety of a child, especially when they, themselves, may be trying to cope with their own anxieties.   It is not surprising that parents who are prone to worry often unintentionally reinforce the same patterns of thinking in their own children with how they think they should respond when anxiety manifests.

The authors make a point of explaining first how worry works on a physiological level, how and they the amygdala reacts to stimuli.  There is a purpose behind the adrenal rush, as we all know from the idea of “fight or flight.”  Understanding the how and why is fundamental to everything that the authors put forward in the rest of the book, and they wisely advise the reader to not oversimplify things for children.  Why not, after all, explain to how the brain works and what anxiety is meant to do?  Sure, smaller children may find the technical terms somewhat confusing but they can, nonetheless, understand through these terms that what they feel is normal, to be expected, and not necessarily indicative of any real danger. 

If knowledge is power, this information is meant to empower both parents and the child(ren) to confront anxiety.  The rest of the book provides simple tools that build one upon the other to first allow for worry, knowing that worry will come, and even confront it head-on.  Each chapter has suggestions for the adult reader to apply to their own experience, activities to use with the anxious child, and ways for parents and children to work together to ensure the child’s independence in a gradually self-reinforcing manner.  For the parent who is not given to worry, the tools show how to work with the child and the worry rather than against it.  For the parent who is also feeling anxiety, the tools can be used to facilitate mutual growth.  Examples of what not to do are also given but there is never any blame.  Rather, the authors are careful to explain how it is almost inevitable that parents, innately inclined to protect and nurture, are bound to do things that will accommodate and reinforce anxiety rather than reduce it. 

I don’t think I was an overly worried parent and I still learned a great deal from reading this book.  There will eventually be a free ebook, Playing With Anxiety, made available for parents to use with children but this was not yet available.   The latter part of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents focuses on how to use this ebook and it is good to see that it will be offered for free.  I doubt, however, the free ebook will make much sense without having read the primary text from cover-to-cover.  I think any parent would benefit from reading this book, especially one with a child or children exhibiting patterns of anxiety behavior, whether separation anxiety, fear of new experiences, and other typical worries that enter a child’s life.  Teaching that there are ways to respond, and not react, to worry will only empower the anxious and allow a new freedom in facing life. 

Independence could very well be the greatest gift a parent can provide a child, after love.

Back to School logo Back to School Reading Challenge: Update #1This book is my first submission for Joy Weese's Back-to-School Reading Challenge.  Although I worry about our finances (I'm not currently working so that seems more like a normal response to a circumstance over which I have little control), I am not an anxious person by nature.  I feel concern for my family and friends but mostly I trust they can all take care of themselves.  However, I do know people who do get anxious and this book gave me a great deal of insight into the differences between healthy responses to circumstances and how anxiety can be limiting, cutting one off from new experience, from growing emotionally and intellectually, etc.  I've signed up for email updates about the ebook Playing With Anxiety because I am curious to read it once it is made available.


  1. This sounds like a powerful and important book. I suspect my mother would have found it useful when I was a shy and fretful child.

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. Joy, None of my children were especially anxious by nature but I think my granddaughter is more inclined to those things. She's on the healthier end of things and, with the right support and reinforcement, we may be able to encourage and support her towards independence. That's my hope, anyway.

  2. This sounds like a good and useful book for any parent to read. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Mellissa. I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I've been sick and am only now catching up with everything. I definitely found it very helpful. I think even an anxious parent without an anxious child could benefit from some of the suggestions.


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