How to Help a Child with Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a common experience among people of all ages, and after COVID-19’s stay at home orders, your child might be experiencing heightened social anxiety with the return to the classroom. If you’re wondering how to help a child with social anxiety, look no further. This blog will identify and discuss what social anxiety is, how it manifests, what causes social anxiety to develop, and how to aid a child who is dealing with social anxiety. Read on to learn more!
What Is Social Anxiety?
Before addressing how to help a child with social anxiety, it is important to have a clear understanding of what social anxiety is. This form of anxiety is essentially the intense fear of being judged and perceived by other people. Individuals who suffer from social anxiety have an extremely difficult time in any social situation and other communal settings.
How Social Anxiety Manifests
Now that you have a basic understanding of what social anxiety is, it is important to also understand how it manifests. Some of the most common social anxiety symptoms include the following:
- Trembling or shaking
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extensive worrying and overthinking
- Extreme embarrassment
- Full blown panic attacks
Not every person experiences social anxiety the same way nor to the same extent. With that in mind, we advise that you talk with your child to understand what they are experiencing. In doing so, you can better navigate the child’s anxiety and find ways to calm your child when they are struggling.
Why Social Anxiety Develops
For some, social anxiety naturally occurs through genetics, for others there are specific environmental factors that can be traced to why social anxiety develops. Here are the most common factors that influence social anxiety in a young child:
- Bullying (learn what to do if your child is being bullied)
- Unhealthy parenting styles
- Traumatic or stressful previous situations
In addition to these environmental factors, this past year and a half has presented another stressor for children all across the world. As COVID-19 put the world on a lengthy shut down, many children were forced to complete their schoolwork at home, away from all of their peers and teachers. As such, children were not exposed to social experiences for over a year and can also be a noteworthy reason why social anxiety is now presenting itself.
No matter the extent, it is important that your anxious child gets the help they need and deserve to overcome social anxiety, or at the very least, find ways to manage their anxious feelings.
How to Help a Child with Social Anxiety
If you are looking for coping skills to help a child struggling with social anxiety, consider the following tips:
Teach Them About Social Anxiety
Talk with your child about what social anxiety is and how to pinpoint it in their day-to-day lives. Once your child understands how to identify social anxiety, they can begin to redirect their emotions and eventually learn to handle any negative thoughts that occur with social anxiety.
Consider Therapy for Your Child
Secondly, a great option for helping a young child with social anxiety is to get them involved in therapy. Not only do therapists have a comprehensive understanding of social anxiety and how it occurs, but they can also provide your child with the tools necessary to overcome their emotional distress during any social interaction.
At Children’s Bureau, mental health services are provided to children ages 0-21. With a number of different mental health tools and resources, finding the support for your child has never been more accessible. Remember, there is nothing wrong with giving your child the extra support they need as they continue to grow and develop. In fact, the extra support of a mental health professional will allow them to better understand themselves and their feelings as they move into adolescence and adulthood.
Reward Their Progress
Another great option for helping a child cope with social anxiety is to reward them when they work towards redirecting their emotions and handling anxious feelings.For some, that may look like attending a social situation or being a bit more social even though it pushes them outside of their comfort zones. Rewarding progress and not perfection can make a significant difference for your child and at the very least it lets them know that they have your unconditional support.
Hindering Social Anxiety
Social anxiety may not completely dissipate, however, with the right coping skills and support, your child can learn how to control their social anxiety over time. No matter the situation, the support that you give your child will make a significant difference in their ability to work through any anxiety. In fact, reading through this blog is the first step in helping your child with social anxiety.
Susan J. Wood, Former Director of Mental Health
Susan J. Wood, LMFT was the Director of Mental Health at Children’s Bureau and has over 20 years of experience working with children in a community mental health setting. She joined Children’s Bureau in 2015 as a Program Manager in the Antelope Valley and became the program director in June 2018 where she was instrumental in opening and expanding mental health services to the Santa Clarita Valley and Long Beach.