Having a tendency toward anxiety I have always been interested in remedies, therapies and practices that can reduce fear and generate calm. I do yoga and meditation and visualization. I have taken magnesium, calcium and Bach Remedies. And I read books. Lots and lots of books. And over the years I have learned so much that has been very helpful.
But this week I am reading what may be the most helpful book on managing anxiety, and my great surprise is that this is not intended as a book for worried grown-ups, but a book to help parents with their children’s anxiety and fears.
The new book is, “The Opposite of Worry” by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. In this book Cohen addresses parents of children with anxiety disorders or who have fears that interfere with their learning or their ability to socialize or play. He gives a brief intro to clinical anxiety and fear disorders but concentrates on how to help children through fear with out nagging, shaming or being overly logical—explaining, explaining, explaining.
And he offers a number of entertaining games parents can play with their kids to help them understand their fear responses and to reduce fear. He introduces games you can play on the spot—at home or away --and “games” like “Duck Guard” that teach children to understand their bodies fear processing and to externalize the fears. Children can learn to incorporate these “games” (techniques) into their own self-management.
It’s a brilliant and helpful book for parents. But from page one I thought, “This is also for me and all of my recovering friends who are still fearful, worried, too careful and anxious. We need these techniques and we are better served by Cohen’s playful, subtle and nonjudgmental approach then by anyone lecturing, explaining or shaming us with the usual, “You have nothing to fear” approach.
Yes, using a book designed for parents is of course, self-parenting—the life-long task of many of us in recovery. And perhaps reading about anxiety in children is the safest, least threatening way to sneak up on our own fear responses and literally tease them out in a safe, comfortable way.
The other benefit of using the techniques and games in “The Opposite of Worry” to change our own fear responses is that we are then much better equipped to help our children or grandchildren with their fears. Anxiety is often shared in families and passed from parent to child, so here is a delightful, playful and compassionate way to change what we teach.