How to Support a Child with Social Anxiety
What is Social Anxiety?
Many parents consider shyness and social anxiety as one and the same. However, social anxiety is more complex than general shyness. Social anxiety is a form of anxiety that heightens emotions in kids when they are involved in social situations. It’s an intense fear that can impact a child’s daily relationships and functioning levels.
Social Anxiety Symptoms in Kids:
Showing overall poor social skills (e.g., lack of eye contact, closed body language, etc.)
Withdrawn or reserved in group situations
Challenging time meeting new friends
Avoiding social situations
Difficulty expressing needs and wants
Difficulty engaging in conversations
Anxiety leading up to social situations
Low self-confidence and self-esteem
Social anxiety can manifest itself in many ways including the following physical symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Sweating more than usual
How to support your child with social anxiety:
1. Don’t allow your child to avoid the situation
For example, if your child is scared to go on a school field trip, compromise with them. If you are able to attend as a chaperone, it will allow your child to have a safe person present while still attending the event.
Try taking small steps toward attending a full social event. For example, if a school dance is three hours long, compromise and have them go for one hour.
By taking small steps and mastering smaller social situations, it empowers them and builds confidence that encourages them to be more comfortable in similar situations.
Celebrate each win with your child. This provides positive encouragement and acknowledgment of the progress they have made.
2. Creating a safe space
Many children will remain quiet about their social anxiety due to embarrassment and fear of letting their family down.
Try opening lines of communication with your child to promote an environment that welcomes them to share their thoughts, feelings and emotions in a safe space.
3. Challenge anxiety with therapeutic support
It is helpful to bring in an outside perspective with an expert therapist who specializes in working with kids and anxiety.
During therapy, different techniques will be utilized, such as role playing. Role playing is a tool used to play out different scenarios of a given situation. The therapist is able to model different outcomes that run through the child’s mind.
Therapists can offer coaching for parents and families to help them find effective strategies and solutions.
Therapists assist families in creating a safe space to openly share their fears, concerns, hopes, and perspectives.
4. Reinforce positive behaviors, not negative ones.
Avoiding social situations is a negative behavior, which is a direct result of overwhelming anxiety. Reinforcing those thoughts will only perpetuate the behaviors.
Involve the adults in the child’s life, so everyone is aware of the importance of reinforcing positive behaviors.
Track positive behavior to reward and monitor progress.
5. Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness techniques can be taught in therapy but can also be started in the home to help manage social anxiety.
Meditating before a social situation helps lower anxiety.
Breathing techniques can also lower anxiety levels.
6. Physical exercise and movement
Movement is good for both our physical and mental health. Movement helps release neurotransmitters that assist in improving our stress response.
Going on a walk with your child a few hours before a social activity could help them feel more relaxed going into the situation.
Social anxiety does not need to limit your child’s daily life. Building confidence and empowering a child are the steps to promote fearless social engagement……
If your family is looking for additional strategies to better manage social anxiety so your child can feel confident and fearless in social situations, please contact me for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305.
I look forward to working with you.
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