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Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents:
7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous & Independent Children

Break the Cycle of Anxious Worrying

Childhood should be a joyful time for carefree play, active learning, and spontaneous exploration. However, a growing number of children are trapped in a cycle of anxiety that literally paralyzes them with fear and holds their families hostage. What starts as an occasional stomachache might turn into a daily refusal to go to school. A concern about falling down while playing soccer could morph into quitting the team. Ironically, well-meaning parents may be the very force that unwittingly plants the seeds of worry and avoidance. Anxious children can learn patterns of worry from adults who are only trying to help. Our most common responses, such as simply saying, “Calm down, nothing bad will happen,” can encourage them to remain frightened. Like a game of Whack-a-Mole, pushing down one worry might make another one pop up, leaving parents perplexed and frustrated.

In this groundbreaking book, anxiety experts Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons provide families with a jargon-free, step-by-step plan to solve the puzzle of anxious, avoidant kids. You’ll learn the difference between healthy worrying and debilitating anxiety and gain the concrete skills to help your child or teen work through their anxieties. Action, not avoidance, is the key to success, and this book gives kids the tools to help them face challenges and step forward in spite of the threat. By following this powerful program, you can stop the cycle of fear and allow your child to grow with healthy independence and courage.

Table of Contents

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: Seven Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children (HCI Books, 2013)

by Reid Wilson, PhD and Lynn Lyons, LICSW

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: How Worry Moves In, How It Grows, and Why It Needs to Go
  • Chapter 2: Nurture or Nature? Either Way, You Have a Job to Do
  • Chapter 3: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time...
  • Chapter 4: It’s Actually Not Breaking News
  • Chapter 5: Same Old Worry, Very Different Responses
  • Chapter 6: The More Unsure, the Better
  • Chapter 7: Retraining the Brain: Doing Matters Most
  • Chapter 8: Calming Down the Body
  • Chapter 9: Stepping Toward the Bigger Picture
  • Chapter 10: When Amnesia Attacks
  • Chapter 11: Casey’s Guide Will Help
  • Chapter 12: Moving Toward Courage and Independence
  • Using Casey’s Guide to Help Your Child
  • Appendix A: Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed in Childhood or Adolescence
  • Appendix B: National Organizations That Identify Therapists Specializing in the Treatment of Anxiety in Children, Adolescents, or Adults
  • Appendix C: Children’s Books That Model Healthy Cognitive Styles for Children

About the Authors

Reid Wilson, PhD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is author of Don’t Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks and the coauthor of Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions.

Lynn Lyons, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice and a sought-after speaker and consultant. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders in adults and children, including generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and performance anxiety.

Thoughtful Comments from Parents & Professionals

A very practical and straight forward approach to helping children learn to identify and deal with their anxiety. It has given me the tools I need to help my students and my own children. I tried out the strategies the very next day in my classroom, with great success. The kids loved naming their anxiety and even drawing a picture of it. This helped them to externalize their anxiety and take control of it. Simply brilliant and very doable!

Beth Lamb-Hamilton, Teacher

I have found the strategies very easy to implement in the moment.  Most recently I was even able to apply them on a three-way phone call with a child that was struggling at school. Labeling the anxiety and externalizing it helped not only the child, but also the parent and school staff to not get sucked into the specifics. It was amazing how simple it was and how well it worked!

Michelle Whalen, BA. Child and Youth Work, Child and Family Counselor

The strategies of not focusing on the content of the worry have helped immensely with my 12 year old son who has a generalized anxiety disorder.  I have used the line "Is that your worry talking?" a number of times since learning this approach. Now when I say it, he looks at me and smiles, knowing exactly what I mean.  Having him recognize the anxiety for what it is has enabled us to focus on how to deal with worry in general rather than frustrating ourselves with explanations and rationalizations about the specific contents of a worry.

Susan Doble, Parent

I implemented the seven steps with my daughter, who suffers from separation anxiety from her father, since his mother passed away last August. My husband and I had reached a point where we were going to arrange for counseling for my daughter.  As a "last resort" I reviewed the Seven Strategies and began to implement them.  I informed my husband about what I was doing and why, so that we would be consistent in our approach to responding to our daughter's anxiety. I am pleased and proud to say that as a family, we developed a plan on how we were going to manage my daughter's separation anxiety and we stuck to the plan.  I think the most important skill we learned was managing the worry instead of focusing on the reason for the worry.

DeAnna Renn, R.N., Mother and Public Health Nurse

The puzzle pieces used with anxious kids and anxious parents are critical. They really work, but everyone has to work together and at first, it is really hard. I thought I was ignoring my child at times but, in the end, I was helping. Thank you to Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons.

Monette Boudreau, Mother and Teacher

Lynn Lyons and Reid Wilson's program is a simple yet very effective way to teach children and parents what anxiety is and how it works. It gives the family a common vocabulary when addressing anxiety that allows for better communication, better understanding, less frustration and, consequently, much success in empowering both the child and the parents in their pursuit to stop anxiety in its tracks. One of the best programs available!

Manon Porelle, M.A.Ps., Clinical Child Psychologist, Canada

My son has difficulty staying overnight at people's houses. He even gets himself so worked up he ends up vomiting and thus the late night phone call to go and pick him up. By applying the principles, we decided to have a wake-over instead of a sleepover. So, I sent him with flashlights, books, crayons, etc... with the goal of staying up all night. The other parent even made a bet of who could stay awake the longest. My son won! He stayed up until 3 am and had his first successful sleepover at a friend’s house!! Thanks Lynn & Reid.

Lisa Clarke, Mother

After learning from Lynn and Reid about the principles for dealing with anxiety, I felt empowered to immediately begin applying them with students in my second grade classroom.  Although I still consider anxiety a serious issue, it no longer seems that complicated or overwhelming to address.  I was so excited and knew the principles were working when one of my students remarked, "My Worry is not as loud today!"

Tracy Bulthuis, Teacher