A much-needed book for parents about themselves.
In the tradition of Dr. Benjamin Spock, who in 1946 revolutionized parenting with the famous opening words of his classic child-rearing guide, "You know more than you think you know," child and family therapist David Anderegg reminds contemporary parents that "parenting is not rocket science. It's not even Chem 101." So why do those of us with children worry so much?
Whether they're thinking about school violence or getting a child into the right college, American moms and dads are a pretty worried crowd. Even though most American families are safer and healthier today than at any other time in our history, studies show that parental worrying has, in recent years, reached an all-time high. In Worried All the Time, Dr. Anderegg draws on social science research and his more than twenty years' experience as a therapist treating both parents and their children to clarify facts and fantasies about kids' lives today and the key issues that preoccupy parents. In the process, he offers a comforting and useful message: Parents are suffering needlessly -- and there are things they can do to take the edge off and focus on what their children really need.
In Worried All the Time, Dr. Anderegg identifies some of the causes of worry in contemporary American families, including fewer children, exaggerated fear of competition, and overblown media reports of children at risk. Anderegg calls this the "tabloidization of children" and critiques the fashion for media portrayals of "children in crisis." One at a time, he takes on the hot-button issues of our times:
• the use of day care and nannies
• overexposure to media
• school violence
• experimentation with drugs
and looks a little closer to see the facts and the fantasies beneath the hysteria. Calling himself a "crisis agnostic," Anderegg persuasively argues that needless worry has negative consequences for families and for our culture as a whole. The cardinal rules of good parenting -- moderation, empathy, and temperamental accommodation with one's child -- are simple, he says, and are not likely to be improved upon by the latest scientific findings. Anderegg helps parents to understand the difference between wise vigilance and potentially crippling anxiety and to gain the confidence to trust their own common sense.
According to Anderegg, a child therapist and professor of psychology at Bennington College, parents of today are excessively concerned about their children. A number of factors including an increase in older parents, smaller families and media hype surrounding topics like school violence have contributed to this rise in parental anxiety. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, Anderegg posits that some worrying about children comes from unresolved issues in the parents' own lives. He uses the research of cognitive-behavior therapists to point out that parental vigilance, while appropriate for infants, is difficult to turn off as a child becomes more independent. Focusing on some of the hot topics of parenting, such as daycare, drug use and how to ensure that children attend the right schools, he argues that such worry is misplaced and counterproductive for both parent and child. Instead of obsessively overseeing their children's activities or worrying about their accomplishments, Anderegg recommends parenting children within an atmosphere of moderate firmness, empathy and an understanding of an individual child's temperament. Although the author's advice is sensible, it will be of the most use to parents who have some familiarity with educational and psychological terminology.