This Thursday night in Stamford, CT, our affiliate organization Laurel House is hosting a talk on childhood and adolescent anxiety by Eli Lebowitz, PhD, of the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Lebowitz is co-author of the book “Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers” and originator of the Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) program.
I saw Dr. Lebowitz speak at a parent event three years ago and instantly identified with his message that childhood anxiety is a mental health condition that affects entire families. It is well known that by accommodating an anxious child’s fears, parents can actually perpetuate the anxiety they seek to avoid. Far from blaming parents, Dr. Lebowitz described this process in terms of evolution: human parents (and especially mothers) are genetically hardwired to protect their young.
When a child is afraid, we as parents instinctively act to protect her from the source of fear, whether a hungry tiger on the prowl or the imaginary spider which might be lurking in the closet. Most kids today never have to face a hungry predator. But for the child with anxiety, the threat from the imaginary spider in the closet can be just as terrifying and is a lot more real.
And for the parents, the indications of their child’s distress – histrionics, psychosomatic symptoms, sleepless nights, even panic attacks – can be just as disturbing.
I have written about the ‘protection trap’ of accommodation in previous posts for my blog The Family Side. As someone who has made his share of parenting mistakes, I know how easy it is to fall into that trap – and for all the right reasons even if the end result is wrong. Dr. Lebowitz was the first expert to not just point out the error of my ways but to explain in knowledgeable, yet compassionate, terms why it happened and offer solutions for how to make it better.
Dr. Eli Lebowitz will be speaking at Laurel House on Thursday, October 2, as part of its Family Seminar Series. If you are a parent in the Stamford area dealing with anxiety issues, phobias, panic attacks, treatment resistance or school refusal in a child, teen or young adult, I strongly urge you to attend this talk. It may change your life, as it did mine three years ago.
For more on Dr. Lebowitz’ book, click the link below:
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