5 Ways to Help Your Children Overcome Social Anxiety
Children have many fears as they begin to understand there is another world besides home. Toddlers especially become fearful when they notice people are different or a stranger comes up to them and tells you your child is adorable. Some children have not been exposed to many playmates yet because they have a parent that stays home or they have a grandparent that is a caregiver while mom and dad work. Once children realize people actually die, they have fears about their parents. When children witness an accident, they develop fears that this could happen to them or mom and dad. Children are afraid of the dark, have nightmares that are scary and if they haven’t been exposed to many play dates are often anxious about starting preschool.
Here are five ways you can help your child overcome social anxiety
1) Social anxiety is common in children and anxiety can prevent children from feeling comfortable in their minds. Children worry about making mistakes or failing, they are people pleasers and worry about being embarrassed or letting their parents down. The problem with social anxiety in children is this could stop them from trying something new or not wanting to go to a party or playdate. They are also afraid of risks and this fear can hold kids back from growth. If parents enroll their child in a class and they are afraid of swimming or T-ball, they start bucking you when it’s time to go to class. They start making negative comments about their abilities to succeed.
2) It’s important to develop a good connection with your child so you can tell when they are struggling with anxiety. If your child doesn’t want to attend practice or go to their game, be playful with them. They see you are excited and relaxed so this can help your child calm down and begin to relax before you leave.
3) Accept how your child is feeling when they become anxious about going out into public. Make sure you don’t neglect their feelings because it’s important that your child knows they can come to their parents and talk about their fears. Listening to children helps them to feel safe when they are going out in public.
Parents normally can tell when something is bothering their child and if they know they have to attend an event and become whiny, make sure you talk to them so they know you understand. In case this is not the issue, keep asking questions kindly, until they admit what the problem is.
4) Empathy is an important quality to show during episodes when your child is anxious. This helps them understand that you are supporting them and this connection to your child is important. They realize you get it and know how they feel. Children want to feel safe and using empathy helps you and your child to start dwindling down the social anxiety feeling.
Years ago before the technology existed, people had immediate problems during bad seasons. They worried about warmth, food for the winter, and every day was a constant stressor for families paving their way across the new frontier. Now stressors are not as immediate, they are more futuristic. Your child may worry for a week about a test they have to take or a game that is coming up. Many people get stuck in their minds on anxiety. It could be a thought that triggers off a bad day and it happens to everyone so therefore anxiety is high. Teaching your children mindfulness can be helpful. Distract them back to the present with something they enjoy. Take them to the park, talk to them or find something so they aren’t dwelling on what’s bothering them. Some children are way more anxious than others. Parents also worry as well when you know you are going to have a deadline or are having that meeting with your boss. This can help you understand why your child feels anxious as well.
5) Make sure you prepare your child for upcoming events when you know this can cause them anxiety. Be informative and help them understand what to expect, who is coming and what might happen. Try as use as many details as possible so they are prepared. There are also books that you can find about social anxiety in story form for children. This might help them realize that the outcome of the story tells them that all went well with the characters and ease their nervousness. Children love the closeness of a parent reading to them. They always end up feeling relieved after a good example through reading.
If your child gets stuck on “what ifs” as in what if this happens or what if that happens? You can encourage them not to focus so much on the “what ifs” but on the event itself. Talk about the progress they have made and tell them no one in the world is perfect. Your child might be worrying about performance at school for a holiday for instance. This is the time you tell them you make mistakes just like anyone else and if they forget a word in the song, no one will notice because the whole class will be singing.
Sometimes parents have to sit on the sidelines and not step in because you are feeling anxious about your child. When parents hang around for too long because they are anxious, you are just causing your child more social anxiety. Sit on the sidelines, but make sure they can see you so they feel comfortable. Of course, if something serious happens like a full-blown panic attack, make sure you take your child out of the event for a bit and help them cope. Sometimes the child just needs a minute to catch their breath and happily skips back to the event once you have talked to the child.
Raising children isn’t easy and when they start interacting with the outside world, this is when you have to encourage them to be independent. Over 50 years ago, kids could walk to school when they were in kindergarten after mom or dad walked them and taught them the route. The world is different now and social anxiety is much higher now than 50 or 60 years ago. There is stranger danger and abductions and it’s a pretty scary world in the small eyes of a child.