Dr. Debra Kissen is the Clinical Director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center of Chicago. Dr. Kissen specializes in CBT based treatment to children, adolescents and adults with a focus on anxiety and stress-related disorders, including OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, separation anxiety disorder, compulsive skin picking, trichotillomania and other Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). Dr. Debra Kissen applies the principles of evidence-based treatments while at the same time treating the whole person, with deep respect for the human spirit and the challenges we all face on our journey through life.
Dr. Kissen is a Clinical Fellow at the Anxiety Depression Association of America (ADAA) and is a Co-Chair of ADAA's Public Education Committee.
Children of anxious parents are more at risk for developing anxiety disorders. This is because they will have both a genetic predisposition to developing an anxiety disorder and their environment may emphasize hyper vigilance to risk cues. It is important to emphasize that being at risk for developing an anxiety disorder does not mean with certainty that they will develop one. Creating an emotionally healthy environment where children learn to tackle their fears can prevent the development of an anxiety disorder.
Tips to help your child persevere in the face of fear:
- Help kids break down fears so they can take baby steps forward vs feeling overwhelmed by to big a goal.
- Reward brave behaviors by setting up a reinforcement system where every time a child takes a chance towards facing a fear they get a point to be used towards something special. It is important that points are earned for effort not based on outcome.
- Talk about your fears in a healthy, problem solving manner. Model for your child that you recognize that you are afraid of something but at the time you realize it is very unlikely that something bad is going to happen. Talk through ways you can practice facing your fears. Ask for your child's support and encouragement as you take on new challenges. They will enjoy cheer leading your efforts.
- Separate out your fears and personal experience with anxiety with the journey ahead for their child. Just because a child is expressing fear of going to a birthday party does not mean they are feeling the same terror or feel of social rejection that a parent may have felt when they were a child or adolescent. Each person's journey is different and it is important to try to separate out one's own fears from the experience that their child is having.
- If fear or anxiety is beginning to impair functioning, it is important that parents consult with a professional. CBT for anxiety disorders in children is effective and efficient and can quickly teach a child how to move past fear and anxiety.
As FDR had so wisely stated, there is truly nothing to fear but fear itself. Once a parent learns that they need not let their own fear boss them around and cause them to miss out on valued living then they can pass this important lesson on to their children. Fear and anxiety may be uncomfortable but they are not dangerous states and they need not cause one to avoid living life to the fullest.