Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions


Jewish Family & Child Service now offers SPACE: Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions

As its name suggests, SPACE is a treatment model that focuses on the parents of kids managing life with anxiety and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). SPACE focuses on changes that parents can make to their own behavior – especially what are known in this modality as accommodations in an attempt to reduce their child’s symptoms of anxiety or OCD. 

What does accommodation mean in this context? 

An accommodation is something that a parent or caregiver does that reduces the chance that their child will experience distress related to anxiety. 

An accommodation can be:

  • sleeping next to a child who fears being in bed alone 
  • no longer going out in the evening or only having one particular babysitter  
  • participating with your child in OCD rituals like hand washing or repetitive checking
  • repetitive or overly rigid nighttime rituals

When parents engage in accommodations they do so out of love – they want to protect their child from experiencing distressing feelings. However, accommodations can keep a child from learning their own techniques to help better manage their anxiety 

SPACE is about helping the parent become the change agent for their child rather than engaging in accommodating behaviors. SPACE does not assign blame to parents; instead, it provides a new way for them to support their child.

SPACE treatment includes roughly 12 weeks of sessions for parents during which the SPACE-trained clinician guides parents through a series of steps designed to support the child while reducing established accommodations. SPACE leans on a few general strategies, such as:

  • Cultivating a supportive parental role 
  • Restoring a child’s autonomy
  • Improving a child self-regulation and coping
  • Developing a supportive community 
  • Improving collaboration and communication among the family
  • Minimizing escalation

SPACE was developed in 2002 by Dr. Eli Lebowitz at the Yale Child Study Center and has been tested and found to be efficacious in randomized controlled clinical trials.

Laura Cohen
If you are interested in learning more, please email Laura Cohen, LCSW, ACSW, of JFCS.

To learn more about Laura, click here.