CBT can help your child to overcome their anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found useful in helping anxious children and adolescents. It teaches them skills for managing their fears. For example, it teaches them relaxation techniques, thoughts they can use to help them cope with anxiety-inducing situations, problem solving skills, and the ability to externalize the “problem” and to view “the problem” as “it” rather than thinking that they themselves are the problem. CBT also provides children with a safe context to gradually encounter their fears instead of avoiding them.
Earlier studies1 showed that when the parent’s also received CBT along with their children, there wasn’t much effect.
Children do better with CBT if their parents learn reinforcement skills or relationship skills
But a 2020 study2 showed “Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) is a parent-based treatment that reduces accommodation of childhood anxiety.” It found that if parents were loving and supportive, but still let their children face their fears rather than avoiding them, that the child’s anxiety tended to decrease.
A new study3 published in 2021 looked at three groups of anxious adolescents who were receiving:
- CBT while their parents also learned reinforcement skills
- CBT while their parents also learned relationship skills.
Learning reinforcement skills generally means learning positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. “Negative reinforcement” is when you tell the child to avoid what they fear. You are in a sense teaching them to run away or escape their problems rather than dealing with them. “Positive reinforcement” is, for example, praising them for facing their fears.
The children who’s parents were learning reinforcement skills did better than those who’s parents were learning relationship skills. And the children who were just doing CBT and their parents weren’t learning anything, had the least positive outcomes.
So to help your child to overcome their anxiety, you should talk to your counselor about reinforcement skills and how best to apply them.