Monday, 12 August 2013 | MYT 6:00 AM

Teaching kids to let go

You And Your Anxious Child
You And Your Anxious Child
Free Your Child From Fears And Worries And Create A Joyful Family Life
By Anne Marie Albano with Leslie Pepper
Publisher: Avery, the Penguin Group

You are about to enter a house full of party guests and suddenly your child clings to you, signalling that he doesn't want to go in. You take a few more steps forward, and he either clings to you even tighter or he just lets out a shriek, or maybe worse, bawls his eyes out and goes into a raging fit, protesting even harder.

Two things to ponder – he's either fearful of strangers or he is anxious about you disappearing in a crowd full of party guests.

The difference? Fear is focused on direct threat while anxiety is focused on future threatening possibilities.

So, back to the house of party guests. If your child says he's afraid that you might get lost in the crowd, or that no one will play with him, or god forbid, you forget about him and go home without him, then yes, it's separation anxiety. His primary fear has evolved into him thinking of all the negative and frightening thoughts that could actually happen.

Anxiety disorders are not caused by bad parenting. Ironically though, the very instinct to make for good parenting – the instinct to protect, may play a key role in deepening a child's anxiety.

It's very common for us parents to soothe our crying child, to scoop him up when he is in a challenging and fearful situation. But with an anxiety disorder child, the good intention and actions have an opposite effect.

For instance, the child cries, he gets a hug; the more he cries, the more hugs he gets; the longer he cries, the longer the hugs; and it keeps going on and on. The result is an over-protective parent feeding the fears of an over-anxious child. Does this sound familiar? Fret not. Although it's a vicious cycle it's possible to break it.

This book not only shows you how to measure your child's level of anxiety. It also offers many ways of coping and treating them. The author has put together a step-by-step guide to recognise the kind of anxiety and the level of anxiety your child may or may not have.

It's very important to take note that not all clingy kids suffer from anxiety disorders. It's only when such responses become excessive that the fear and anxiety transforms into an anxiety disorder. So, parents who practise attachment parenting like myself, need not worry.

As long as you are well informed of the severity of your child's fears and anxiety, you will know how to respond while still practising attachment parenting. Also note that, the more experience your child has separating from his caregiver, the less separation anxiety he will feel.

If you catch anxiety in the early stages, and consult a child therapist, your child will likely do well without medication.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is one of the many therapy options parents will have. One of the goals of CBT is to help a child recognise when his thinking is helpful or otherwise.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects 3% to 5% of children and adolescents and usually girls, more than boys. SAD is diagnosed between the ages of seven months and nine years or any time before a child turns 18. (There are more reports of girl sufferers because there's a theory that boys are taught to toughen up, so it's likely that they don't report or express their feelings as openly as girls.)

The author also offers tips and information on how to deal with the aftermath of your child's disorder. How do you pick up where you left off, before the anxiety hit? Now that your child is “cured” and back on track, it's normal to feel like you're no longer his best friend. The book will give you insights on how to curb your (possible) feelings of not being wanted anymore.

First, the book helps you help your child let go of you, then it helps you let go of your child after you've done a marvellous job getting him to face the world.

This book not only answers all the anxiety questions you have, but also presents answers to questions you never thought of asking.

This book should be read by every parent, whether you practise attachment parenting or not. Like the author says, it's not your bond or attachment that feeds his anxiety. It's the way you resolve his fears and how you soothe his fears.

This book is definitely worth your time and money, and once you put the authors' words in perspective, you will only be left with a happy child and a happy you.

* Available at Books Kinokuniya Malaysia. For further enquiries, call +603-21648133, email or visit BookWeb Malaysia.

Tags / Keywords: You And Your Anxious Child Free Your Child , Anne Marie Albano , Leslie Pepper , separation , anxiety , anxious , child , children , parenting , family , book , review


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