Home & Leisure

Is your child or teen super anxious? Here's some advice from a Temple University psychology expert

Wendy Ruderman, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Parenting News

PHILADELPHIA -- Anxiety among children and teens is on the rise, and that concerns clinical psychologist and Temple University professor Philip Kendall.

Kendall directs Temple’s Child & Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic, which treats kids ages 7 to 17. The clinic charges low treatment fees in exchange for enrolling children in research to better understand what works best.

Kendall said neither he nor his two children (now adults) were overly anxious growing up, but everyone experiences some anxiety as a normal, self-protective reaction to an unfamiliar situation. He gravitated toward helping children and teens manage their anxiety, in part because anxiety disorders are often treatable, which he finds professionally rewarding.

Kendall spoke to The Inquirer about how parents can better recognize unhealthy anxiety in their children and help them “dial it down.”

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the best way to help children manage anxiety?


You don’t get kids to overcome or manage anxiety by talking about it. The way to get over anxiety is to practice through behavioral experiments, also called exposure tests. If you’re afraid of a dog and you don’t change your behavior, that’s not a big deal. But if you’re afraid of a dog and you won’t go to a friend’s house or you won’t walk home from school because there’s a dog in the neighborhood, then it’s interfering.

The best way to overcome interfering maladaptive anxiety is through exposure. You start by petting a small dog and you work your way up to petting the big dog. And when it’s over the kids kind of strut, ‘Wow, I can do it now.’

How do you tell the difference between everyday worry and an anxiety disorder?

It’s hard for some people to recognize. And the reason it’s hard is that parents in particular will sometimes adjust their own behavior to reduce their kid’s emotional distress. So the kid has social anxiety and they’re afraid to order their own meal in a restaurant, so when the waiter comes over and says to the kid or teen, ‘What will you have?’ and the kid doesn’t say anything, the mom or dad says, ‘Oh, he’ll have blah, blah.’


swipe to next page

©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus