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Conquering the Worry Monster: Daniel Peters on 'Make Your Worrier a Warrior'

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Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D.

The author of Make Your Worrier a Warrior (Great Potential Press, $16.95)—published last Saturday, November 30th—Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D. is also a licensed psychologist. He is the co-founder and Clinical Director of the Summit Center, specializing in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and families, with special emphasis on gifted, talented, and creative individuals and families. Dr. Peters speaks regularly at state and national conferences on a variety of gifted, learning, and parenting topics; further, he consults with GATE and special education departments and trains teachers and parents in understanding, teaching, and raising complex children to be engaged in the classroom, at home, and in life. Dr. Peters is also the author of From Worrier to Warrior, a companion book to Make Your Worrier a Warrior, which was written for teens and tweens.

Make Your Worrier a Warrior has received enthusiastic pre-publication buzz. Dr. Dean Edell, physician, author, and former radio/television host, praised, “Make Your Worrier a Warrior is simply the best, most useful, and most approachable book on this subject I have ever read. Dr. Peters has that magic knack for reducing complex information to essential elements that can be mastered by anyone. Down-to-earth, straightforward, and nonjudgmental, this book has it all—from recognizing a problem and its likely causes to practical, real-life strategies to conquer the Worry Monster that dwells in all of us, especially our kids. I highly recommend it.” Further, Richard & C.R. Zwolinski, authors of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On, noted, “We found that most parents and children could benefit from many of the strategies in this book, because underlying all is the belief that given the proper tools, we can control our thoughts and cultivate healthy emotions. A powerful message in a timely book.”

From the publisher:

With this book, parents can team up with their children or teens to help them do the most courageous thing they will ever have to do: conquer their Worry Monster. Make Your Worrier a Warrior provides useful and comforting methods that parents can use to help their children create an anxiety-reducing “toolbox” to carry with them wherever they go. In building this foundation for their children, parents might even find that these strategies will work just as effectively to manage their own anxieties.

Now, Dr. Peters invites readers to learn how they can make warriors out of worriers …

1) Why did you write these books for parents and children?

I have been working with kids and families for years on battling anxiety, fear, and the Worry Monster, as well as speaking on the topic to parents and teachers. People kept saying, "Where can I get your books?" I finally realized that while there are many good books out there on the topic, there was not one that simply described how anxiety works, and specific strategies for countering worry and fear (the Worry Monster) in a user-friendly way. I realized it was time for me to put what I do every day into a book that parents could use, and kids themselves could relate to, in order to take on the Worry Monster down.

I have seen the strategies in this book help so many people and wanted these tools to be available to everyone looking for help.

2) How did your journey receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia as an adult inspire you to help others?

I actually had been working with children and adolescents who had learning issues for some time before learning that my own 3 children were dyslexic, several years after being in practice. Raising kids with dyslexia deepened my personal experience with the challenges of learning in traditional school settings as well as finding effective interventions. It was only a few years ago, that the dyslexic expert who works with our kids (and whom I know) pointed the finger at me and told me that I was clearly the culprit. Her "diagnosis" of me helped me to both put many of my learning challenges and strengths into a meaningful context, and gave me even more of a passion to get the word out about the importance of identifying dyslexia as early as possible, providing important intervention, and emphasizing the many positive characteristics of dyslexic individuals.

3) What is the Worry Monster?

The Worry Monster is a mythical creature who goes around and bullies kids and people of all ages into being worried and scared. Like all bullies, he is a coward, yet uses specific tactics to carry out his mission - keep people from fully enjoying life and maximizing their abilities and experiences. The Worry Monster's main strategy is to place thoughts in people's heads - "You are not going to get picked...People are going to laugh at you...You mom is going to forget to pick you up...if you don't count to 10 three times something bad is going to happen." The Worry Monster gives separation from child and the feeling to provide the space needed to ignore him, fight him, and conquer him!

4) What are a few tips to conquer or tame the Worry Monster that can be used by parents and children alike?

The first thing to know is that we humans are built for survival. We have alarm systems in our body, known as our "survival" of "fight or flight" response that is designed for one thing - to keep us alive. The Worry Monster sets off our survival response when we don't need it to go off - being dropped off at school, going to a party, or trying out for a team. It has been discovered that our worrisome and fearful thoughts (told to us by the Worry Monster) set off the alarm system, make us feel scared, then make us act in a certain way (run away, avoid, melt down) that is not helpful for the particular situation. We can learn to identify our anxious thinking, change our thinking in to more healthy and adaptive thoughts, and reduce the power of the Worry Monster.

5) You also work with gifted children - tell us a few things about that.

I never learned about gifted children in graduate school or anytime after (like most professionals). It turns out that "gifted" children (those have advanced cognitive, academic, creative, performing, and/or leadership ability) are at high risk for underachievement, anxiety, depression, and social isolation? Why, because they are different than most. They think differently, act differently, and have trouble fitting in with their chronological peers. Further, most people don't know that gifted kids can also have a learning issue like dyslexia, a developmental issue like ADHD or Aspergers Disorder, or emotional issue like anxiety and depression. Kids are both gifted and have one or more of the aforementioned issues are known as 2e or twice-exceptional since their abilities fall on both ends of the bell curve. Gifted kids have tremendous potential, yet are also at great risk. They often need to be understood (rather than misdiagnosed) and helped to navigate the educational and social world until they are old enough and gain the skills to do it themselves.

6) If you could give one piece of advice to all of us about NOT WORRYING what would it be?

ALL worry resides in the FUTURE which has NOT yet occurred. Try to stay in the present and know that you have the thinking tools to handle situations when they occur. And always remember to breathe (okay, so that is two pieces of advice).

***

With special thanks to Laura Rossi Totten, President at Laura Rossi Public Relations, for generously providing this Q&A for use on HBE.

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