Often when I ask kids what they do to beat anxiety they will say things like…
I try to get my mind off it
I distract myself
I take deep breaths (honestly I think they just say that because they think that is the “right” answer)
The one thing I almost never hear is…
I beat anxiety by changing my thoughts.
Now I know that isn’t earth shattering information, and yet most kids aren’t doing this one powerful, but simple thing.
When children are afraid or obsessed with a horrible thought you might think that the best way to help them is to teach them to get their mind “off of it.” Not only is this not effective, it can actually make anxiety and OCD worse. ERP for OCD and anxiety, also known as Exposure and Response Prevention is a counterintuitive therapy that has some parents running in the opposite direction.
But let me tell you why this wacky approach not only works, but is the gold standard for treatment.