Social anxiety in children is a very real and common issue. After all, this is a generation who has spent their early years behind digital screens with little to no experience of mingling with people in real life!
If you are here, you are already a step ahead in helping your child the correct way. In most cases, identifying social anxiety in children is the very first step and one of the most important. Don't worry! You are at the right place to help your children with social anxiety the right way!
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is the fear or self-doubt about our performance or behavior with people. Sometimes children tend to shy away from social situations and are labelled as introverts and shy kids. However, these could be the starting signs of social anxiety.
Many people still ask if a child can even have social anxiety. To answer that, well of course they can! If you spot your child shying away from such social situations or facing any other abnormal symptoms due to their fear of being out in public or meeting a lot of people, your son or daughter might have a little social anxiety.
Signs Of Social Anxiety
Identifying is the first step to curing! Social anxiety has a lot of telltale signs in children. If you are thinking about how to deal with social anxiety in a child then the first step is to understand whether or not your child is facing it.
Even though most signs of social anxiety can feel pretty normal as they come off as typical behaviors, sometimes keeping a close eye on the patterns will let you know if there's something wrong or not.
1. Fear of Mixing Up
A lot of times children are afraid of engaging with others their age. This can be totally normal in the beginning. However, if this behavior continues, you might want to take note of the situation. There could be numerous reasons behind it. For example, someone might
have laughed at them, or maybe insulted them in front of other children. Situations like these and similar, tend to influence children to overthink and become negatively oriented about all public situations.
2. Avoiding Social Interactions
If you notice a pattern that your child is making up reasons or stories to get out of a social situation, that might also be a time to sit them down and have the 'talk' about what they are feeling.
Avoiding social interactions due to genuine reasons can be understood. However, if a child acts up, or worse, starts having temper tantrums before an upcoming social meeting, then it can very well be a sign of social anxiety.
3. Other physical signs
Our mental and physical health is quite interlinked. In the case your child has severe anxiety issues, it might reflect in their regular behavior and physique as well. Some of the tell-tale signs of social anxiety could be a stomachache, blushing, nausea, fidgeting, shivering, etc.
If you notice these signs upon exposure to or right before a social situation, then it's time to consider getting some help!
Ways To Overcome Social Anxiety
If you are unaware of what helps with child anxiety, here are a few ways to guide you on the right path!
1. The Step-ladder Approach
The step ladder approach refers to tackling the problems step by step. Ask your little one about all the possible social situations that will make them anxious and rank them from top to bottom. This will create a ladder going from little things to bigger ones. Use this as a map to tackle the easy situations first and slowly build up till you reach the last level!
2. Be Empathetic
There are different ways through which you can let your child feel safe and do what helps with child anxiety.
● Appreciate - If they are doing something that is out of their comfort zones, appreciate and praise them.
● Acknowledge - Let them know that social anxiety is common. It can help if you give examples about situations that have made you anxious in the past, so they can feel like they are not alone.
● Understand - Get to know the reasons behind their anxiety by doing some critical thinking and having creative conversations with them. Sometimes when you just spend time talking with them, the underlying issue will become clear.
Some easy steps like these will help you do the right thing and understand better how to overcome social anxiety in children!
3. Mock Trials
The best way to help your child get through any kind of anxious situation is by helping them prepare for it by practicing it in advance. For example, creating a mock situation which makes them anxious and acting out characters and speaking like them to your child will help them find the right responses to every kind of scenario. You can also help them understand what different outcomes one scenario can generate depending upon your responses. Then you can talk about the ideal response for a particular social setting.
Now that you know a few steps on How to deal with social anxiety in a child, here are a few things that you should NOT do if you want to help your child! Here's a quick list of things to avoid!
● Speaking for them in any situation
● Criticizing in public
● Accepting negative comments from the public in front of the children. (Instead try waving them off, or converting them into a positive point)
● Getting frustrated and negatively orienting your children
All of these are just a few measures we can try to correctly help cope with social anxiety in children. If your child does not feel better even after a considerable time with these approaches, it might be a good idea to have proper consultations with a child psychologist.
Please remember that all of the information and suggestions are for the purpose to identify and guide you through some of the first steps. Please seek counsel if you feel you have questions or are dealing with highly intense situations.