Fear is a natural part of childhood. From the monster under the bed to the first day of school, your children may experience all sorts of fears from time to time. Much of this is a natural reaction to trying something new and unfamiliar. With some children though, the fears and anxieties begin to negatively affect their quality of life.
I don’t normally review a lot of books outside of the Christian genre, but I have heard so many parents discuss the topic of childhood (and adult) fears and anxiety, I really felt this was an area I needed to explore. I was excited when a publisher offered me the chance to read and review the book, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Revised and Updated Edition: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life–from Toddlers to Teensby Tamar Chansky, PhD.
This book is an approachable how-to manual for any parent who has ever questioned whether the anxiety and fear their child is experiencing is “normal”. I loved the idea that although the author does suggest getting outside help when needed, she broke everything down into doable steps for parents who want to help their children work their way through their fears.
The author uses the first half of the book to give parents some basic psychological information. She also spends a lot of time breaking down what she considers the basic steps for helping kids and teens with any sort of fear or anxiety. Although it can seem a bit repetitive at times, she details very carefully everything from what to say (and not say) to what specific things to do (and not do) when working with your child.
The second half of the book deals in more specifics by breaking down fears and anxieties into several basic categories. The second half also gives you ranges- for example – from clinginess to separation anxiety to panic disorder. I find this helpful because sometimes as parents we have our own worries and anxieties about our children. I remember more than one conversation as moms discussed whether or not their children would need a night light when they were in college. I finally met a mom whose child did and once we realized this totally together adult had not only survived, but thrived – even with a night light- everyone relaxed.
I only have a few complaints about the book. My first wish was that the author had factored in faith at some point. As a Christian, I believe God can play a huge role in helping our children face and conquer their fears. I think it is vital we teach our children over and over that God is always in control, loves us more than we can even understand and has a plan. We have free will within that plan, but God always wants what is best for us.
My second wish was that the author spent a little time talking about natural personality types and how what may appear as anxiety is really a child who is introverted and likes to sit back and observe before diving in to new things. These are the children who may react as anxious if pushed into something new too quickly. If you allow them to sit back and observe for a few minutes though, they will often step in on their timing and soar in the activity. Some children may also be late bloomers. They may want to learn to ride a bike or read later than peers, but once they are ready, they tend to master the skill in a fraction of the time it took other children.
The last area I wish the author had mentioned more was the idea that sometimes children are anxious because parents are pushing them in to activities they are not developmentally ready to participate in yet. Try forcing a six month old to potty train or walk and you will quickly see what I mean. Certain activities are meant for most children to do at certain times in their development. If a child has developmental delays or is gifted, these times may vary from the norm. Pushing any child too far too quickly though will cause stress and anxiety. Realistic expectations are the quickest way to “cure” that type of anxiety.
In spite of my wish list, I believe this is a very helpful book for almost any parent. If you and your child are struggling with fears of the garden variety or grappling with more serious anxiety issues, I would highly suggest you read it. While it may not solve all of your issues, it will at least help you and your child make steps in a positive direction.
This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. It will definitely have a place in my reference library to share with others.