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Book Review: The Anxiety Cure for Kids

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By Elizabeth DuPont Spencer, MSW, Robert L. DuPont, MD, and Caroline M. DuPont, MD; 224 pages. Subtitle: A Guide for Parents

If your child's anxiety has you feeling worried and anxious, too, this book may just be a cure for the both of you. Written by a family of therapists, it walks you through an easy version of cognitive behavioral therapy to do with your child, which starts with visualizing that anxiety as a scary dragon and learning, with the help of an inner wizard, how to make it shrink and shrivel away. Though the dragon may come back, you and your child will know how to vanquish it.

About the Guide Rating

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Pros

  • Creates kid-friendly symbols for anxiety and strength
  • Writing is easy to read and respectful of parents
  • Gives specific instructions for implementing an effective method
  • Stories are helpful, but lead quickly into how to apply the cure to your own family
  • It helped my own daughter, in short order

Cons

  • Children with full-fledged anxiety disorders may still need professional and medicinal help
  • Kids who are reluctant writers may resist the journal exercises
  • You'll need to do some personalizing of the method to your own child's needs

Description

  • Chapter 1: Understanding Anxiety and Fear: The Dragon
  • Chapter 2: The History and Diagnostic Categories of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adults
  • Chapter 3: Treatment: The Wizard
    Chapter 4: Evaluating Your Child's Need for Medication and Therapy
  • Chapter 5: Step 1: Ben's Story -- Understanding Your Child's Dragon
  • Chapter 6: Step 2: Julie's Story -- Shrink the Dragon With Practice and Cognitive Restructuring
  • Chapter 7: Step 3: William's Story -- Using Medication and Relaxation
  • Chapter 8: Step 4: Rebecca's Story -- School Anxiety and School Refusal
  • Chapter 9: Step 5: Rebecca's Story One Year Later -- Set Goals for the Future, Including a Plan If the Anxiety Comes Back
  • Chapter 10: Assessing Your Family's Role in Anxiety Disorders
    Chapter 11: Anxiety, Terrorism, and Other Extraordinary Threats
  • Chapter 12: Advice for Teachers, Coaches, Doctors, Therapists, School Nurses, and Others Who Work With Anxious Kids

Guide Review - Book Review: The Anxiety Cure for Kids

My daughter has anxiety problems, and very little interest in playing pretend. She refuses to read stories with fantastical characters. So when I read in this book that I should teach her to think of her anxiety as a dragon living in her head, I was skeptical that she would be willing to try it.

But maybe that was just my doubt-inducing dragon talking. Because my girl took to the dragon idea immediately, and with great relief. More than any visualization we've used or rationalization I've tried to teach her, characterizing those troubling and fearful and bothersome thoughts as the mumblings of a mean old dragon gave her a useful way to understand and deal with them. There's something to this cure, for sure.

The idea is to picture the anxiety as a dragon whose goal is to lock you up in his prison. But the dragon's secret is that he can only scare, not actually hurt. As the book suggests teaching your child, the dragon eats fear, and if you withhold that fear, the dragon shrinks away. Even if you can't stop feeling the fear, if you just act like you don't feel fear, the dragon's going to go hungry.

The authors offer "wizard tricks" your child can use to resist the dragon's scary messages, and suggest keeping a journal to monitor when the dragon is strongest and weakest, and what works to vanquish it. The cure is intended for kids with anything from mild anxiety problems to full-fledged anxiety disorders like OCD, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder -- but some kids may need medication and a visit to a therapist to help them put the cure in place.

There's a discussion of medications and descriptions of disorders here, but the heart of the book is the dragon-slaying method, and it's awesome. My daughter would be the first to tell you, it works! I'll bet her dragon was surprised, too.

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