This week NPR’s Morning Edition featured a great piece about the role parents should play when dealing with kids and anxiety. The story describes a 9-year old boy who was so anxious about being alone that everyday tasks like bedtime and showering became debilitating. His parents found help through an experimental program at Yale University that treated childhood anxiety by teaching parents how to respond to it.
The child’s father, relying on his own childhood experience (as most of us do), explained that he instinctively responded to his son’s struggles with a desire to tamp them down, saying things like “Get over it. Suck it up.” Wouldn’t acknowledging fears and anxieties breathe life into the feelings and allow his son to wallow in them? The parents found the opposite to be true as a result of the training they received through Yale.
In the program, parents were trained to respond more effectively and with more encouragement to their children’s fears rather than giving in to and accommodating their fears. By the end of the study, roughly 70% of the children who participated reported having no anxiety. With anxiety and depression on the rise among children and teens, it’s encouraging to learn of these positive outcomes from a research study.
In the Yale program, parents learned to use two tools that are hallmarks of PEP’s approach:
- Reflective listening, the simple act of acknowledging the child’s feelings to empathize and help put a name to the emotion. “I see that you’re scared. Dark places worry you.”
- The language of encouraging a child by observing their efforts and expressing faith in their abilities. “Acting as if,” when you’re not certain they will conquer the challenge in front of them, sends the message, “I have faith in you to figure this out.”
Anne Marie Albano, a Columbia University Psychologist, quoted in the NPR piece said, “The parent training seems to work because it lets children confront their anxieties while parents provide love and support from afar.” This is the essence of PEP, giving parents the knowledge and skills to raise more cooperative, respectful and responsible children—that is, to become parents who are involved but not over-involved, who are protective without being overly protective, who provide without over-indulging, who can create a loving and well-functioning family.
Our experience here at PEP parallels the study, we see parents and families transformed time and again through the practice of these simple, powerful skills. While most parents don’t have access to the resources offered through the Yale research study, they do have access to PEP! Here are three ways you can tap into PEP today!
- Check out our on-demand workshop, Emotion Coaching. In this one-hour workshop, parents will gain an understanding of their own parenting style—dismissive, disapproving, laissez-faire or emotion coach—and then learn skills to help their child self-regulate through problem-solving.
- Join one of our two online master classes, each 4 weeks long and offered monthly: Encouragement! Building Your Child’s Confidence from the Inside Out, and Redefining Discipline: A No Gimmicks Guide to Raising Responsible, Respectful Kids.
- Read more about Children and Anxiety from PEP Education Director, Lynne Ticknor: Anxiety in Children: Helping Your Child Find Peace of Mind