Worried All the Time : Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It

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9780743225687: Worried All the Time : Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It

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
· overscheduling
· 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.

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Review:

Psychologist David Anderegg has written a fascinating book about the worries that wake parents up at night. His confrontational premise is, "Worry reveals very much about the parent and very little about the child." Rather than view a child through the prism of a parent's anxiety, Anderegg focuses parents on their child's unique temperament. He surveys our culture and child-development literature, asking searching, nettlesome questions. For example, why do Americans feel so invaded by their own cultural products? Among his targets are parents who read too much and those who view their children's college acceptance as a parental final exam. Each chapter outlines how parents may be overreacting to issues such as school violence and offers insightful ideas for parents to try at home. Anderegg is at his best in a brilliant chapter about drugs. Here, he explores the unresolved authority issues of boomer parents who are grieving about their current "uncool" state. Although the subject of sexuality is curiously underplayed, Anderegg's prickly ideas and practical suggestions will gain this book a wide, well-deserved readership. --Barbara Mackoff

About the Author:

David Anderegg, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Bennington College and has been treating children and families in psychotherapy for more than twenty years. Since 1994 he has also been the mental health consultant to Berkshire Country Day School. He received his Ph.D. from Clark University and trained as a therapist at the Child Psychiatry Unit at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Anderegg lives in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and two college-age children.

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