Anxious kids? Treatment might best be targeted at parents, says study

Anxiety is at an all-time high these days.

Kids are suffering more and more but how can parents help them? 

The answer might be an unusual one - treat the parents instead of the kids.

Yale researchers have looked into this and have developed a program called SPACE, or Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions.

It's all about grown-ups being taught to help their kids manage anxiety by reducing – supportively – the accommodations that they adults make for their kids' symptoms.

So what are these accommodations?

They include allowing an anxious child to stay home from school, sleeping every night with a frightened child, answering your kids' numerous messages or not having house guests because of a youngster’s social anxiety.

A whopping 98 percent of parents are estimated to show this behaviour with anxious kids.

In the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry, Yale researchers found that limiting accommodations was not only effective but seemed to work just as well cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The study, which took four years involved 124 youngsters aged between 7 to 14.

Sixty kids were given 12 weeks of CBT training and they learned to notice anxious thoughts and challenge them. 

For each of the other children, one parent received 12 weeks of training in SPACE program techniques to practice with their kids.

Eli Lebowitz, the lead study author said, ''One of the most remarkable outcomes of this study, is these children whose parents got SPACE told us they were as much better as the kids who got cognitive behavioural therapy.”

The key to the success of the program is the parent making sure that the kid knows they are supported and loved.

In turn, parents look at their own behaviour – and the child then learns to cope without leaning on their parents. 

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