A new study shows promising results for reducing anxiety in kids who have anxious parents.

Fact: Anxiety runs in families.

If you're anxious, there's a greater chance your kids will be anxious, too.


*starts breathing into paper bag* GIF from "The Big Bang Theory."

But don't get anxious about having anxiety and giving it to your kids just yet. A new study suggests we might be able to do something about it.

Everything's gonna be OK. Maybe.

This is good news — because anxiety sucks.

Wouldn't it be great to learn how to prevent our kids from dealing with something that we wish we didn't have to deal with? That's exactly what researchers wanted to find out when they conducted a study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Here's how they approached the study.

First, they look at the facts.

10% of kids in the U.S. meet the criteria necessary to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. That's a lot of kids. What can we do about that?

Well, they also noted that children of anxious parents have a greater risk of developing anxiety disorders. Which makes sense, right? Because, as they noted, "specific parenting practices, such as modeling of anxiety and overcontrol/overprotection, contribute to elevated anxiety." Basically, if we're anxious, we do stuff in our daily parenting that can make our kids anxious, too.

The researchers pointed out that other programs aimed at reducing anxiety in kids, like family-based treatments and cognitive behavioral strategies, showed some promise.

Next, they embarked on a yearlong study to determine whether they could help kids of anxious parents avoid ending up anxious themselves.

Researchers looked at 136 families with kids between the ages of 6 and 13. At least one of the biological parents in each family had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Their kids, however, were not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nor did they meet any criteria to warrant a diagnosis.

The families were divided into two groups:

1. The "information-monitoring" group

These parents received a 36-page informational packet about anxiety disorders in addition to information on treatment for anxiety. Basically, they handed them a stack of papers, told them "good luck," and then left them to figure things out on their own.

2. The "intervention" group

Instead of going it alone, these families were asked to attend eight 60-minute sessions with a licensed therapist over the course of eight weeks — plus three optional monthly "booster" sessions.

Your therapist, basically. GIF from "Jerry Maguire."

The first two therapy sessions were for the parents only, and the remainder were for the entire family. In the sessions, therapists taught families how to recognize signs of anxiety, how to reduce it, better problem-solving and parenting techniques, and other skills.

The conclusion? In the two groups studied, those that received additional help fared much better after one year.

At the end of the one-year study period, the children were again evaluated for anxiety disorders. Although 19 kids in the "here's your information manual, good luck" group — just over 30% — developed an anxiety disorder, the other group saw a lot more success.

Only three kids in the hands-on, expert-led group — 5% of participants — developed an anxiety disorder. That's an impressive difference — nearly sevenfold!

Thumbs up for good news! Image by iStock.

Dr. Golda Ginsburg, a psychiatry professor and the lead researcher in the study, explained to NPR that an extremely important thing parents were taught is that kids need to face their fears, not avoid them.

We anxious parents might be inclined to steer our kids clear of situations that could make them anxious, but that's pretty much the opposite of what we should be doing because, as Ginsburg said, "they need to help them face their fears in order to reduce their anxiety."

However, the research here isn't finished.

An notable limitation to the study, according to the researchers, was that the families studied were volunteers, most of them white and consisting of two-parent "relatively high" income families. And then, of course, there's the question of, "How do we actually help American families in general?"

So there's work to do to make this research truly useful. But until then, those of us with anxiety can keep this info in mind and find ways to help ourselves so we can help our kids.

I'll leave you with this bit of advice, from the authors of the book "Anxious Kids Anxious Parents" that echoes what the researchers taught study participants and feels like a good place to start:

"Worry and anxiety are normal. They show up when you are doing something new or different or challenging. Your job is to step into the uncertainty of life, not away from it. Knowing how to respond to your worry — not how to eliminate it — is the key. Parents must focus on raising children that can tolerate uncertainty and problem solve so that kids feel equipped as they grow."
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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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