How To Help A Socially Anxious Child

Social anxiety can strike at any age. However, it’s most common in children and teens, and that really doesn’t surprise us. These are the ages in which we have to learn the most about the world, and they tend to be the ages at which we make the most mistakes. 

Kids and teens are also subject to bullying from their peers, in a way few adults are, and this can reinforce the fear of being outside of the house in a situation we can’t control. But as a parent of a socially anxious child, there’s a lot you can do to help them find their bravery and step outside of their comfort zone. 

socially anxious

Talk Through What’s Likely to Happen

Kids’ imaginations can lead them to thinking the worst any time they have to take on a nerve wracking situation. Even as adults, ‘catastrophizing’ is a common habit that’s very easy to fall into. As such, when faced with a social situation they’re not sure about, go through what’s likely to happen. 

If they’re off to school, remind them that they’re likely to see their friends and talk to a teacher they’re familiar with. On the other hand, point out that anything outside of this schedule is very unlikely to happen, just in case they’re worried about doing something different. 

Figure Out the Root Cause

It’s rare that anxiety springs up out of nowhere. Usually, it has to do with something else going on in life, whether home circumstances have changed recently or your child is dealing with the diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental and/or learning disorder. Figuring out this root cause can help you address the real problem at hand, rather than just focusing on the most obvious symptom. 

Of course, even if your child is potentially on the autism spectrum or could be screened for ADHD, focusing on the way it makes them feel when out in the world is best for creating a constructive plan of action. Considering programs like ABA Autism Therapy can be helpful, but only if you feel that could help your child to feel calm, and even happy, after months (and potentially years) of stress. 

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Heap on Positive Praise

After a social interaction, it’s never a good idea to tell someone who is socially anxious what they did wrong or what they could have done better. In doing so, even when we think we’re helping, we accidentally reinforce their social fear. 

If your child was able to smile at someone and ask how they were, but they forgot to say ‘hello’ first, don’t point this out to them. Instead, praise them for speaking aloud, looking someone in the eye, and being brave enough to reach out. Focus on what they can do, and make sure they understand how proud you are when they stay calm and act rationally in the moment. 

If you want to help your socially anxious child navigate the big bad world, focus on activities like those above. 


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