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How to Help Your Child with Social Anxiety

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Social anxiety in children is more than just a fear of interacting with or making friends. Children with social anxiety are fearful of situations in which they may be judged or scrutinized by others.

Children who experience social anxiety may be triggered by different situations such as speaking in front of others, reading out loud, fear of being evaluated by others, fear of offending others, fear of embarrassment, and fear of conversing with unfamiliar people. Some social situations that may also trigger the anxiety could be drop-off time at school, team practices, and even seeing some family members.

When children are faced with going into an unknown situation, they may react more intensely and can cause significant distress on the child. Children are less likely to engage in social settings.

Social anxiety can appear in many different forms:

Coping Strategies for Children with Anxiety

The first step to help your child cope with anxiety is to name it. Children know they feel fearful and anxious in some social settings, but they may not know why. As parents, we need to help them connect the dots between their feelings, emotional and physical responses, and triggers. Teaching your child the ways in which anxiety impacts thinking and behavior is the next step to work through these big scary feelings.

Relaxation Strategies

There are a variety of tools children can learn to use when they’re feelings anxious or overwhelmed by their feelings. Relaxation strategies can help your child calm down from their scary feelings.

Cognitive reframing

Negative beliefs can reinforce anxious thoughts. These beliefs can be caused by assuming the worst case scenario, believing that others see them through a negative lens, overreacting and personalizing situations.

Another way to help your child reframe negative thoughts is to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. If your child says, “My teacher thinks I’m dumb because I’m bad at reading,” help them recognize the negative thought by grounding it in reality that their teacher is there to help them learn, not judge them. Replace that negative thought with a positive thought like, “I’m having a hard time reading right now, but my teacher will help me get better.”

Teach problem solving skills

Children with social anxiety tend to avoid engaging in situations that cause anxiety. Although it may seem like the best solution possible, it can worsen anxiety over time. Teaching your child to work through feelings of fear and anxiety can enhance their problem-solving skills.

One way you can teach your child problem-solving skills is to identify the trigger and brainstorm how they can overcome their anxiety. For example, if your child fears speaking in class, have your child practice in the mirror, and when time comes to speak in class, your child can find a friendly face.

Learn friendship skills

Although you can’t make friends for your child, you can help your child practice their friendship skills! Here are some skills you can work on with your child:

You can also help your child begin a conversation by finding a friendly face and saying “I like your shirt!” You can then ask your child if they like it, too. This is a good icebreaker for children who are scared to make the first step.

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