Many parents look for books that offer guidance and understanding about psychological problems their children may be experiencing. Mental health professionals also frequently recommend such books to families receiving counseling and other therapeutic services. Unfortunately, parent-advice books are often poor quality, difficult to understand, and not informed by contemporary evidence-based practices. I am happy to say that Anxiety Relief for Kids is not one of those books. Rather, it is an exceptionally well written and practical resource that actually does what its title says.
Author Bridget Flynn Walker is a psychologist in private practice serving persons of all ages who have anxiety disorders. She also has extensive experience with families seeking help for their children. A cognitive-behavior therapist, Walker displays solid CBT expertise throughout the book by translating decades of clinical research into strategies that parents can apply efficiently and effectively.
The book has 12 chapters presented in about 200 text pages, a manageable read for busy families. Walker advises parents to read the chapters in sequential order and to complete the entire book before sharing it with their children. Following her suggestion is a good idea because each chapter builds on knowledge acquired from the preceding chapters. Furthermore, there are numerous exercises in the chapters that enable parents to practice methods and techniques before implementing them.
Early chapters in the book teach parents about the nature, effects, and common presentation of anxiety in children. Walker explains the phenomenology of anxiety with words that any parent can understand, supplemented by case illustrations and a checklists of anxiety-indicative behaviors, language, and emotions children usually show. From her CBT perspective, she emphasizes a parent’s role in assessing anxiety, identifying the situations associated with it, and evaluating the outcomes from parent-mediated intervention. Several strategies are also described for instructing children in self-assessment, which is so critical when treating anxiety disorders.
The book introduces basic CBT concepts and principles but more practically, it tells parents how to use procedures with their children in everyday life for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social avoidance, fears, specific phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Parents learn how to develop strategic plans that set reasonable therapeutic objectives, correct thinking errors, construct exposure scenarios, deliver performance rewards, and troubleshoot “hiccups and roadblocks” that invariably occur. I note again that all of the recommendations Walker makes to parents have an extensive research base and represent the most tested empirically-supported methods.
Another outstanding feature of the book is that each chapter follows a uniform format. Walker briefly reviews the chapter topic, then details sequential procedural steps, integrates tables and simple graphics, and concludes with a summary section, “What Did You Learn from This Chapter?” Other chapter highlights include sample dialogue between parents and children, and forms parents can fill out for writing plans, documenting observations, and tracking child progress. The book even cites a publisher’s website which allows parents to freely access and download these forms and additional worksheets.
Without qualification, Anxiety Relief for Kids is one of the best books of its kind I have ever read. Walker’s writing is conversational and free of technical jargon, as though you were sitting with her in a counseling session. She covers virtually every question and situation a parent of an anxious child would be concerned about, in a way that is pragmatically focused, and with numerous tips that are easy to follow. I anticipate that most parents concerned about child anxiety will fully appreciate the book’s tone and organized approach.
In summary, this book is an exemplary self-instructional guide which in Walker’s words, will provide parents “with the information you need to be an educated player in your child’s management of anxiety,” and “help you and your child live a healthier, less stressful life.”
Anxiety Relief for Kids: On-the-Spot Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Worry, Panic, & Avoidance
Bridget Flynn Walker
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Softcover, 203 pages