When it comes to treating anxious kids, the same rules for treating anxious adults don't apply. According to Lynn Lyons, a therapist who specializes in working with anxious children, 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.
In the following interview with Networker assistant editor Chris Lyford, Lyons explains what this means. She also shares the first steps she takes when a family with an anxious child comes into her office, discusses the importance of using technology in your work, and offers advice for therapists interested in working with kids.
Lynn Lyons, LICSW, specializes in the treatment of anxious families. She’s the coauthor of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents and Playing with Anxiety: Casey’s Guide for Teens and Kids, and the author of Using Hypnosis with Children: Creating and Delivering Effective Interventions.
As Lyons mentions, involving parents in their child's therapy can make all the difference. It might seem like a simple tactic, but it's one that's commonly overlooked. What's more, Lyons adds, anxiety is often a learned behavior. "I tell parents, 'if it's nature, it's you. If it's nurture, it's you,'" she says.
But the initial 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."
Did you enjoy this video? You might also enjoy "Taming the Wild Things," in which Lyons explains how parents often inadvertently create an anxiety-reinforcing system around their children, and what therapists can do about it, and Ron Taffel's "The Decline of Parental Authority," in which he explains how a creating a "community of learners" could be the key to raising children in an increasingly detached, family-unfriendly world.
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