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Parenting Children with Anxiety

A simple pie chart outlined in black atop a white background is divided into thirds. The top section, shaded in white, has an arrow pointing to it with the black-text label: “one in three children will experience clinically significant anxiety symptoms.” The other two thirds are shaded in black. Underneath this is written, “Visually translated by @lindsaybraman.”

Image Description for Screen Readers

A simple pie chart outlined in black atop a white background is divided into thirds. The top section, shaded in white, has an arrow pointing to it with the black-text label: “one in three children will experience clinically significant anxiety symptoms.” The other two thirds are shaded in black. Underneath this is written, “Visually translated by @lindsaybraman.”

When kids are anxious, it is human nature to want to soothe them. For kids with significant anxiety, however, we may need to monitor ourselves for over-accommodating behaviors.

Black hand-drawn text on a white background reads: “Good parents naturally want to soothe anxious children.”

Image Description for Screen Readers

Black hand-drawn text on a white background reads: “Good parents naturally want to soothe anxious children.”

It’s natural that parents with anxious kids want to soothe them. Watching someone we love struggle can be overwhelming – especially when, at first, it seems so easy to offer the soothing that could bring relief.

Black hand-drawn lettering states: “Although well-intentioned, over-accommodation leads to more severe (two words are underlined) symptoms over time.”

Image Description for Screen Readers

Black hand-drawn lettering states: “Although well-intentioned, over-accommodation leads to more severe (two words are underlined) symptoms over time.”

For many, the natural drive to soothe an anxious child can begin to slip down a slippery slope towards accommodations.

Examples of accommodation might be speaking up for a socially anxious child when a relative asks them a question at a family gathering, answering reassuringly each time your child asks if their favorite shirt will be washed in time for school tomorrow, playing an active role in elaborate bedtime rituals created to soothe bedtime anxiety, or scheduling doctor’s appointments that you know aren’t necessary in order to soothe a child’s worry.

A black-and-white hand-drawn list states: “Examples of over accommodating*: speaking up for a socially anxious child, answering the same anxious question reassuringly repeatedly, participating in elaborate bedtime rituals, and unnecessary doctors appointments” Underneath is a note that reads: “*All kids are different and parenting adapts to unique needs.”

 

Image Description for Screen Readers

A black-and-white hand-drawn list states: “Examples of over accommodating*: speaking up for a socially anxious child, answering the same anxious question reassuringly repeatedly, participating in elaborate bedtime rituals, and unnecessary doctors appointments” Underneath is a note that reads: “*All kids are different and parenting adapts to unique needs.”

Parenting Children with Anxiety: Research

Researchers at Yale recently compared two groups of kids with anxiety.

Group 1 received the most common treatment for kids with anxiety: cognitive behavioral therapy, while Group 2 didn’t get any therapy – instead, their parents got coaching in how to parent anxious kids with less accommodation.

The outcome? Both groups of kids had equivalent improvements in symptoms.

Black handwritten text on a white background reads, “Researchers found treating parents of anxious kids is just as effective as treating kids.” The words “just as effective” are written with emphasis lines around them. Below this, with an arrow pointing to it from the text, is a hand-drawn illustration of an anxious female-presenting adult watching a gender nonspecific child play happily with a toy airplane.

Image Description for Screen Readers

Black handwritten text on a white background reads, “Researchers found treating parents of anxious kids is just as effective as treating kids.” The words “just as effective” are written with emphasis lines around them. Below this, with an arrow pointing to it from the text, is a hand-drawn illustration of an anxious female-presenting adult watching a gender nonspecific child play happily with a toy airplane.

Black handwritten text on a white background reads: “One Yale study found that anxiety-focused parent coaching with no treatment of the child & CBT treatment for the child with no treatment for parent(s) were equally effective at reducing anxiety symptoms in kids.” The phrases “anxiety-focused parent coaching with no treatment of the child” and “CBT treatment for the child with no treatment for parent(s)” are written in white text over black boxes.

Image Description for Screen Readers

Black handwritten text on a white background reads: “One Yale study found that anxiety-focused parent coaching with no treatment of the child & CBT treatment for the child with no treatment for parent(s) were equally effective at reducing anxiety symptoms in kids.” The phrases “anxiety-focused parent coaching with no treatment of the child” and “CBT treatment for the child with no treatment for parent(s)” are written in white text over black boxes.

The coaching offered to parents in this Yale study focused on how to reduce accommodations while still supporting kids and acknowledging their difficulties. (Responding with statements like “I know you are scared, but I know you can do this.”)

Black handwritten font reads “This coaching focused on how to: 1. Reduce accommodations and 2. Still support kids and acknowledge their difficulties.” There are circles drawn above and below the text, used as dividers, and the numbers 1 and 2 are inside black squares.

Image Description for Screen Readers

Black handwritten font reads “This coaching focused on how to: 1. Reduce accommodations and 2. Still support kids and acknowledge their difficulties.” There are circles drawn above and below the text, used as dividers, and the numbers 1 and 2 are inside black squares.

Empathically acknowledging fear AND setting boundaries that help kids grow is really, really hard stuff. If you need support, coaching, or help to know the difference between helping and enabling, ask for help. You don’t have to figure it out alone.

A calm female-presenting adult is shown soothing an anxious-looking non-gender specific child. Both are black and white hand-drawn doodles.  A speech bubble shows the adult stating, “I know you’re feeling upset, but I know you will be okay.” A hand-lettered caption reads: “Study led by Dr Eli Lebowitz at Yale University and the National Institute of Mental Health. Visually translated by LindsayBraman.”

Image Description for Screen Readers

A calm female-presenting adult is shown soothing an anxious-looking non-gender specific child. Both are black and white hand-drawn doodles.  A speech bubble shows the adult stating, “I know you’re feeling upset, but I know you will be okay.” A hand-lettered caption reads: “Study led by Dr Eli Lebowitz at Yale University and the National Institute of Mental Health. Visually translated by LindsayBraman.”

This series of information illustrations was based on a research study (“Parent-Based Treatment as Efficacious as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Childhood Anxiety…”) published in 2019.

A report on this study can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2019.02.014

Lead Researcher: Dr Eli Lebowitz, Yale University Child Study Center.

Sketchnote titled “Effective treatment of childhood anxiety via therapy for parents.” On the sketchnote are various doodles and information describing how therapy for parents can be helpful in treating anxiety in children, as studied by Eli Lebowitz, PhD.

Image description for screen readers:

Sketchnote titled “Effective treatment of childhood anxiety via therapy for parents.” On the sketchnote are various doodles and information describing how therapy for parents can be helpful in treating anxiety in children, as studied by Eli Lebowitz, PhD.

Download this Sketchnote as a PDF

This doodle is based on a Yale study published earlier this year that, frankly, confirmed what those of us in the field already knew: When we never face our fears, fears get bigger. For more details on this study (which applied specifically to parenting anxious kids) scroll back in my feed about two months to the other doodle in bright red. . . . A high resolution printable of this lettering can be downloaded through patreon.com/lindsaybraman.com
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