5 Ways To Help Children With Social Anxiety
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between ‘shy’ and ‘socially anxious’. Shyness is considered a normal facet of one’s personality and many people who are shy do not experience the negative emotions and feelings that accompany Social Anxiety Disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder is classified as a significant amount of anxiety and fear of embarrassment or humiliation in social performance based situations to the extent that the person will avoid the situations entirely or endure them with a high level of distress.
Here are five ways to support a child experiencing Social Anxiety to improve their social skills:
1) Be aware of what triggers your child’s anxiety and talk to them about it. Whether it is being in large groups of people or speaking in front of groups of people. This may help you both anticipate and prepare for a situation likely to evoke distress and debrief afterward. Debriefing is important so you can check in to see how your child is feeling after an anxious situation.
2) Provide your child with strategies for remaining calm in situations that make them anxious, for example, deep breathing strategies or imagining they are watching their favourite YouTube video. Stay calm when your child becomes anxious and remind them of these strategies in the moment where possible.
3) Recognize and praise your child for being “brave” and for “doing your best”. Please do not reprimand your child for not being as social as you’d like. Be a patient and loving support for your anxious child.
4) Develop and broaden your child’s social skills. Help your child work on body language such as making eye contact and smiling and facing people, conversation skills including saying “hello”, starting and keeping conversations going, friendship skills such as asking others to do things with you, joining in on activities, asking for help and assertiveness.
5) Gradual exposure is an important step in helping your child to manage their social anxiety. This is where you work with your child to encourage them to systematically face their social fears. Start by working with your child to make a list of social fears, for example calling a friend on the phone or asking a friend over to play. Encourage your child to begin with the least scary experience and once your child can enter into that situation without experiencing much anxiety move down the list to facing the most scary situation which may be to take group swimming lessons or attending a birthday party.