How to Help a Child with Social Anxiety

Learn how to help a child with social anxiety in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.

We’re here to talk about how to help your child with social anxiety. Now, it’s normal for many of us, or anybody, to feel a little anxious going into a social situation, having to give a presentation or going and being the new person in a group, and that’s appropriate sometimes and we learn to deal with it and we still can carry on. Sometimes, it can really interfere with a child’s ability to go on and experience new things and meet new people and it kind of takes them out of the game a little bit, so you need to help them with staying in the game and feeling comfortable, or at least having the skills to feel a little calmer when they have to get in the game.

For everything from being embarrassed and worried about giving a book report or a teen who’s a little worried about going to a party with new kids, there’s things that you can do to help your child who’s anxious in these social situations, when people are around or they feel like they’re going to be judged or criticized. First thing is, you don’t want to minimize their anxiety. You want to understand it, empathize with them, but you don’t want that anxiety to control their behavior and their experiences. So, you always want to be careful that kids that are socially anxious may start to avoid situations to avoid that feeling of anxiety. After a while, it snowballs because it just increases the anxiety and becomes bigger and bigger and then their worries get bigger and bigger. In general, the smaller the worry and, when it starts, the easier it is to solve.

A couple of things you can do is plan. Help the child think through what’s going to happen in a new situation. Talk about it. Visualize it. Go through the steps so that they can feel confident and comfortable and so that they can imagine themselves in it and think about what they would do at certain points in the situation.

Another thing that can be really effective is to practice with your child and that can be role playing situations. You can use dolls or puppets or, with older teenagers, actually talk through what kind of situation they might encounter. The key is to make sure that you help plan, give that child some tools , maybe also help them with strategies for feeling more relaxed in terms of breathing exercises and then really expose them to the situations that they’re afraid of.

The more you let your child avoid the situations, the worse their anxiety can get, so maybe gradually expose them to the thing that they’re concerned with or that they’re anxious about. One on one dates before you then bring them to a group situation. Have them go somewhere with a best friend to ease that anxiety. In the end, if a child really is avoiding situations and seeming like they’re too anxious and it’s interfering with their carrying on with their regular life or enjoying things, then you might want to consider having them get some help from a professional and there, what can help, is something called cognitive behavior therapy, where they teach children how to manage anxiety and then have those tools for any situation down the road.