You might think your gifted child is too intelligent to worry, but you'd be wrong.
Smart kids worry as much, maybe more, than the average kid, and therapist Allison Edwards, a graduate of John F. Hodge High School in St. James who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., has a private practice and teaches at Vanderbilt University, has written a book for parents of smart kids.
"It's really more about what to do when kids worry," Edwards told the Rolla Daily News in a telephone interview this week about her new book, "Why Smart Kids Worry."
The book defines levels of intelligence and describes how youngsters at those different levels react to worrisome news or events.
"It gives parents tools for delaying anxiety," she said.
Are children more anxious nowadays?
"They are," said Edwards. "It's the No. 1 mental health disorder for children." In fact, she said, 30 percent to 40 percent of kids get some form of mental health treatment, primarily for anxiety.
They are surrounded by news, family actions and events at school that keep them stressed, she said.
Even the educational process can stress children and make them anxious. As schools begin educating children at younger ages, teaching them skills to prepare them for kindergarten, which itself used to be preparation for elementary school, the stress level for children rises.
As academic standards go higher at younger ages, and children are urged to excel in their formative years, the stress level goes higher, perhaps affecting them later in school or later in life.
Add to that the evening news, or perhaps a 24-hour news channel, dinner-table talk about news events or maybe a conversation with peers about news events, such as school shootings and terrorist bombings.
"They do not need to watch news," Edwards said. They don't need to listen to NPR in the car on the way to school.
Avoiding news for children is one of her tips. So is avoiding family fighting, fretting openly about finances and a myriad other tensions that can arise in the home.
"I think the more information parents have, the better," Edwards said, and her book is filled with ways parents can reassure children.
Edwards, the daughter of Dale and Sharon Edwards, of St. James, will be in Phelps County for book signings at Sybill's in St. James Friday, Nov. 1, from 5-7 p.m. and Rolla Books and Toys Saturday, Nov. 2, from 2-4 p.m.
For more information about Edwards, her book and her practice, see http://www.allisonjedwards.com.
Publishers Weekly gives "Why Smart Kids Worry" good review
"Why Smart Kids Worry" received a STARRED review in Publishers Weekly. Here's that magazine's review of the book:
Page 2 of 3 - "Therapist Edwards brings profound insight into the minds of gifted, anxious children in this parent-friendly handbook which combines explanations for odd behaviors with practical tools for helping children navigate their fears, learn self-soothing techniques, and learn to function in a scary world.
"She explains the asynchronous development of smart kids, in which intellectual ability exceeds physical age, while emotional maturity tracks physical age or lags behind it, leaving children who take a concrete, literal understanding of what they see, hear, and learn, and expand it through higher-level thought processes into fears about topics like death, finances, terrorism, and natural disasters.
"She advises parents to direct their children away from the triggers of tough topics in family discussions and from the media, giving them only the information that directly affects them, and redirecting their craving for intellectual stimulation into less emotionally charged projects.
"Fifteen tools for parents and children to use together—like "Square Breathing," "Worry Time," and "Naming the Anxiety," which include explanations of when to use the tool, why it works, how to implement it, and what to expect in response—offer practical approaches to teaching coping skills and emotional competence, and will work well for any child with anxiety.
"Parents will be comforted by Edwards's analysis, which frames children's worrying as a manageable challenge."
About Allison Edwards
Allison Edwards is a licensed professional counselor and a registered play therapist with specialized training in working with children, adolescents and families.
She received a bachelor's degree in education from Northwest Missouri State and a master's degree in counseling from Vanderbilt University.
Edwards graduated No. 1 in her class from Vanderbilt University and received the Robert Aubrey "Northstar" Award given to the student who "demonstrates the greatest potential for human development through counseling."
She currently serves as an adjunct professor in the human development counseling program at Vanberbilt University. She also maintains a full-time private practice where she sees children of all ages, consults with parents, supervises counselors and writes about childhood anxiety.
Prior to opening her practice, Edwards spent eight years counseling immigrant children in the public school system. Searching for a better way to reach her students, Edwards discovered the field of play therapy and devoted the next five years to its study and certification.
In 2005, Edwards became the only registered play therapist in the Nashville Public School System and one of only 10 registered play therapists in the state of Tennessee.
Following her certification, she pioneered the first play therapy program for English language learners in the Nashville Public School System.
In 2005, Edwards was selected president of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute, a group of more than 300 Nashville-based psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors.
While serving as president, Edwards created the first-ever fall symposium that features well-known speakers from across the country. Edwards remains a member of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute's Advisory Board and Membership Committee.
Page 3 of 3 - In 2009, Edwards became a Vanderbilt faculty member. She currently teaches graduate psychology courses that focus on practicality rather than theory. She also serves as a supervisor to Vanderbilt practicum students, interns and counselors seeking licensure.
Edwards grew up in St. James and after a high school career of playing varsity sports, received a full basketball scholarship to attend Northwest Missouri State University.
During her four-year career, she was selected captain three times as well as received 1st Team All-Conference, Academic All-Conference and Sportsmanship awards.
Edwards graduated cum laude from Northwest Missouri State. Along with being an athlete, she studied education and speech and her senior year, received the Cobb Award, which is given to the best public speaker on campus.
During her free time, Edwards enjoys traveling abroad and discovering how different cultures deal with emotions.