My Child has Social Anxiety...What Do I Do?
Updated: May 11
Parenting a child with Social Anxiety can be difficult. In children and teens, symptoms of social anxiety can manifest as heightened reactions to social situations that surpass mere shyness, where a child may be hesitant or quiet. Middle school and high school years are typically when most children get diagnosed with social-anxiety disorder. During this time, many children are out discovering who they are in the world and gaining new-found independence. This time also involves navigating new social situations, which can cause anxiety in young people who struggle with these skills and have difficulty navigating social cues.
As a parent, it is natural to want to provide reassurance when your child experiences symptoms of social anxiety. However, this response may actually reinforce your child's anxiety instead of equipping them with effective coping strategies. Parents have the ability to assist their children in recognizing negative core beliefs and labeling their concerns. It's important to show empathy towards your child's worries, but avoid attempting to alleviate their concerns by trying to dismiss their worries. Try saying things like “yes that does sound scary”, and discuss the probability of their fear actually occurring. Motivate your child to envision both the worst-case and best-case scenarios or encourage them to take a small risk that confronts their fear.
How to help alleviate fears at home
Prepare: Help to prepare your child for situations that may make them stressed or anxious. It may help to act out the situation and practice strategies that they can use to make the situation more comfortable for them.
Support: Describe a time in your own life that you have felt anxiety or fear to your child. This will help them understand that it is okay to talk about their feelings, and make their emotions feel relatable. By doing this, your child will feel supported and understood.
Detective Thinking: Encourage your child to do some “detective thinking”. Acknowledge their fears, and then ask them questions such as “how do you know that will happen?”
Praise: If your child is doing something that you know causes them fear, acknowledge their bravery and give them praise. This will help to boost your child's self-esteem.
Remember that each child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. It's important to be patient, understanding, and supportive throughout the process