Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) (page 3)

— NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

How parents can help

Most parents want to help their children avoid experiencing discomfort of unhappiness. Helping your child avoid an anxiety-provoking situation, however, actually reinforces anxious behavior because you are inadvertently communicating that there is something to be afraid of. We know that avoidance keeps anxiety going, and the next time your child is faced with the same situation, he will remember that he was not able to cope with it last time. You are inadvertently teaching your child that the way to reduce anxiety is to avoid what makes him anxious. This prevents the anxious child from developing his own strategies for coping with everyday situations, particularly those that may be difficult or challenging.

Never dismiss your child's fears as "silly" and never say "it's all in your head." Instead, empathize with your child's worries using a neutral, matter-of-fact tone, communicating confidence. For example, "I understand that you are afraid, but I know that you can handle this, and I am here to help you. Let's solve this problem together. What can you do first?"

Parents need to find a balance between keeping their children safe and granting them autonomy. The goals for encouraging healthy growth is for your children to develop as happy individuals, allowing them to explore their environments, and master the resources they will need in order to become successful adults.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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