Connecticut Families Extra: Yale study finds way parents can help kids with anxiety

Connecticut Families

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Ivanhoe) — Bedtime for some families can become a struggle, but when the goodnight routine for Nicole Murphy’s son began to stretch up to three hours, she knew she needed help with his separation anxiety.

“His little mind was always racing nonstop. So, it was kind of hard for him to shut that off, I think,” Murphy said.

Eli Lebowitz and his colleagues at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center developed a method of training parents to support anxious children. It’s called SPACE, or Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions. Parents go through training to help their child face anxiety. Lebowitz says the first step is to show support and not downplay what their child is feeling.

Lebowitz says parents also learn to help their children by not accommodating them. For example, a parent who would limit visitors for a child who gets anxious around strangers, or speaks for a child who gets nervous speaking, learns not to take those steps. In a study of 124 kids and their parents, the Yale researchers examined whether the SPACE intervention was effective in treating children’s anxiety.

“Even though the children never met directly with the therapist and all the work was done through the parents, we found that SPACE was just as effective as CBT in treating childhood anxiety disorders,” Lebowitz said.

The Murphy’s used the techniques learned through SPACE to coach their son through bedtime. Within a few weeks, he was falling asleep in 30 minutes.

“For us, it was like life changing, honestly,” Murphy said.

For more information about SPACE or to find a practitioner in your area, go to

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