And for that to happen, parents often need to learn how to manage their own anxiety. Numerous studies have examined whether it's helpful to treat parents alongside their children — and most show that it is. At least one study found that kids often get better just through their parents being treated.
Like so much of parenting, getting it right is a balancing act. You don't want to overshelter or overprotect your kids, but you don't want them taking unreasonable risks either.
I'm really trying with my own children. I find myself constantly reining in my own fears and allowing them to take on things that, while they may scare me, are probably perfectly appropriate for them to try.
Last winter, in the name of marital harmony and against my better judgment, I permitted my husband to lead the family down a double-black-diamond ski run. My heart was pounding as I lost sight of my children over the cornice. And when I heard my daughter scream that my son had fallen and couldn't stop himself, I thought it might stop altogether.
We got really lucky that day. Our son narrowly avoided hitting any trees and skied off with everything but his confidence intact.
Interestingly, it was my husband who was most upset by what happened and by his own poor decision-making.
That night, for the first time in years, I fell asleep before he did.
Ulene is a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine in Los Angeles.