It has been a problem in science even before Darwin's discovery of evolution: how much of a child's development is embedded in their genes and how much is affected by the way the child is raised? Some things have definitely been categorized in the former—having brown eyes is definitely not something one can change—and some are still up for debate.

It is generally agreed that mental illness can run in a family line, but with treatments for these illnesses becoming more and more frequent, the way in which a child with a mental illness is treated by parents and siblings has developed importance to psychiatrists, therapists, and scientists alike.

Take, for example, anxiety. Treatment for anxiety-based disorders like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder emphasizes confronting the fears of the patient and, thus, realizing the obsessions are unreasonable. For these disorders, scientists say, the role of parents can be integral.


Many parents of children with anxiety are tempted to accommodate to their child's desires, no matter how odd they seem to be. In this way, parents believe they are protecting their children from anxiety and saving them stress.

According to new research, however, these behaviors hinder a child's development. This research, performed by the Mayo Clinic, shows that if a child does not confront the situations which cause anxiety, his or her anxiety will only be confirmed. The anxiety will then grow and become less manageable.


To aid a child with anxiety, the Mayo Clinic suggests that parents encourage their children to confront their fears, rather than shy away from them. However, this does not entail full confrontation immediately. The process involves stages of exposure, in which a child can slowly address his or her anxiety with the encouragement of a parent.

In addition, children with severe anxiety might benefit from treatment from a therapist. Treatment programs range from regular therapy hours to three hour meetings for anxiety confrontation to intensive, week-long sessions. Treatment options are chosen based on levels of anxiety, the child's availability, and a child's geographical proximity to a clinic.

Tackle the Issue

The most important thing to remember if you have a child with anxiety is that evading the issue will only make things worse. If your child has developed a phobia or other anxiety-related issue, you should seek treatment for them as soon as possible. Waiting a few months or a year will only exacerbate the condition and can cause further anxiety-related issues down the road.

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