How to help children with their anxiety

Psychologist Alan Yellin, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best things to do to help your child overcome his or her anxiety
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How to help children with their anxiety

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There’s a lot that parents can do to help children with their anxiety. I think the first thing that parents should be doing is letting the child know that they understand what anxiety and worry is. So they might be able to say things like, “You know, a lot of children worry about not being invited to a party.” Or, “A lot of children are afraid of going outside for fear of seeing dogs or cats.” And then, what we want them to do – if the parent can is we’d like the parent to share any feelings that they’ve had about that. “You know, when I was a child, I too was afraid of dogs. And let me tell you how I’ve got through it.” We gently talk to the children about two parts of our brain – the worry brain and the smart brain. And when the child is feeling anxious, the worry brain is taking over. And we want to teach them how the smart brain can begin to take control over the worry brain. Parents can help children identify when the worry brain is talking, because the worry brain always does 3 things. It always lies. It always exaggerates. And it always words things in what ifs. So we can help the parent by telling the child, “Is that your smart brain talking or your worry brain? I think it’s your worry brain, because it’s kind of lying, exaggerating and it’s wording things in what ifs. So now let’s talk about what the smart brain can do to become the boss over the worry brain.” And the first thing that the smart brain can do is to say to the worry brain, “I don’t answer what if questions.”

Psychologist Alan Yellin, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best things to do to help your child overcome his or her anxiety

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Alan Yellin, PhD

Psychologist

Dr. Alan Yellin is a licensed psychologist as well as licensed marriage and family therapist.  He has been in practice for over 30 years working with children, adolescents and adults. Dr. Yellin did his post-doctoral fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. In his practice, he sees children with learning problems, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, fears and social skills issues. Additionally, he has a sub-specialty in working with children from divorced families as well as helping parents deal more effectively with their divorce. Dr. Yellin’s practice also includes working with adolescents and adults with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive issues as well as issues around life passages. Dr. Yellin believes that therapy works best when the client and therapist have a collaborative relationship as they explore thoughts and feelings and work towards solutions, and uses a combination of scientific data along with humor to help people achieve change. He is in a long-term happy marriage and has two grown children.

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