Book Review: Anxious Kids: How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety into Resilience, by Michael Grose and Dr Jodi Richardson

An essential guide to recognising and responding to children’s anxiety, using it to empower them with the skills to manage anxiety and thrive.

A useful resource for parents who are feeling overwhelmed with their child’s anxiety (and maybe also their own).

More than 500 thousand Australian children (and 117 million worldwide) experience ongoing anxiety that disrupts their day-to-day lives. It’s a startling statistic. What’s causing this, and what can be done to help?

There’s no doubt that children’s anxiety can be overwhelming for both child and parent. In Anxious Kids: How children can turn their anxiety into resilience, authors Michael Grose and Dr Jodi Richardson aim to explain what’s going on when children suffer from anxiety and what parents can do to help children develop strategies to manage difficult and distressing feelings.

Their guide covers what anxiety is and how to recognise it, ways of refining parenting styles to suit the needs of anxious children and tools for managing anxiety. As well, they discuss lifestyle changes that can reduce the likelihood of the problem becoming entrenched and leading to greater social consequences. The authors explore ways in which parents can help their children develop emotional intelligence, build tolerance of discomfort and employ mindfulness techniques to build resilience.

Michael Grose is an Australian parenting and educational writer and speaker. He has written nine books for parents and also shares information and practical ideas on parenting via his Parenting Ideas website. In addition to his writing and speaking work, he supports schools in Australia and overseas to connect successfully with their parent communities.

Dr Jodi Richardson has personal experience of living with anxiety as well as professional expertise in the fields of health, wellbeing, clinical practice, elite sport and education. She writes for magazines and online publications on topics including parenting and mental health, and is the founder and director of Happier on Purpose, the Mental Health and Wellbeing expert for Parenting Ideas and co-creator of the Parenting Anxious Kids online course.

Techniques recommended by Grose and Richardson include adults demonstrating their understanding of the child’s anxiety by showing the child that the parent has noticed their distress. They discuss the importance of reassuring children by sitting with them and modelling that it’s okay to ‘be’—to acknowledge the distress and help the child learn to tolerate it while waiting for it to subside, rather than running away from the anxiety. In facing the challenge of powerful emotions, children can learn that it’s not as scary to push through the feelings as they feared.

Alongside strategies that can be implemented at home, there’s advice for knowing when to seek further help. Grose and Richardson recommend parents take the first step by visiting their family doctor, who can then act as the gateway to specialist treatment, which may include medication and therapy. They outline what to expect during a GP appointment, how to prepare children for the visit, and how to find the right psychologist for the child. There’s also a chapter introducing the different types of therapy and the core principles of each.

The book is well designed and easy to read, with effective use of sub-headings, spacing and boxed text to make the content accessible. There’s an appendix containing contact information for the authors and also sections for notes and a bibliography.

The central message is that children of all ages can take an active role in learning how to reduce the impact of their anxiety. The plain language in Anxious Kids means the information it contains is relatively simple to understand and share with children. For both parents and children, knowing something about the physiology behind anxiety can help demystify it and bring the ability to recognise the physical symptoms, calm the stressful feelings, and work out which strategies will be most effective.

Anxious Kids is a useful resource for parents who are feeling overwhelmed with their child’s anxiety (and maybe also their own).

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: May 2019
RRP: $34.99

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