Helping Your Child Through Social Anxiety

It will be surprising to many parents that even young children can struggle with social anxiety. We’re social creatures, and our appreciation of key social dynamics begin forming as early as age two.

So, during your child’s formative years, it’s important to both teach them basic social skills and help them get comfortable around their peers. This is so they can develop a healthy social schema and consolidate their emotional intelligence.

Most young children don’t have the introspective skills to know when they’re dealing with social anxiety. So, being educated about the signs of and symptoms of anxiety in children is a must for parents.

What is social anxiety? 

It’s important to define what social anxiety is in children. Many adults confuse social anxiety with introversion or poor social skills. This innocent misconception hurts more than helps because many times parents won’t realize there’s an issue.

Regarding social anxiety, the ADAA states, “the defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.”

When your child struggles with social anxiety it can make performing day-to-day scholastic tasks like public speaking or reading out loud difficult. It can also present during playtime, making it especially hard to have and keep close friendships.

If your child is dealing with any form of anxiety this can have a negative impact on their social and emotional development. On a personal level, social anxiety can profoundly change the course of a child’s self-confidence.

Signs of Social Anxiety in Children 

Once you understand the characteristics of social anxiety, it’s a good idea to be proactive and look out for the signs. A common theme in socially anxious children in visible fear or panic while socializing. This fear will manifest as outbursts, crying, refusal to speak, or freezing.

You will also notice that their fear is disproportionate to any actual threat. One disappointing social interaction may cause your child to stress in similar situations for weeks or months. So, it’s important to make sure they have realistic social expectations early on.

Some physical symptoms of social anxiety include a stuttering or trembling voice, body shaking, rapid heart rate, sweating, and a pale complexity. These symptoms will vary from child to child, so it’s important to be in-tune with your child and recognize atypical behaviors.  

What Can You Do? 

Empathizing with your child and making sure they know you’re there to help is vitally important. In addition to providing familial support, bringing your child to a licensed child counselor is another great way to get to the heart of their anxiety and work towards overcoming it.

You can also help teach them simple social cues and sills. This could include role-playing and practicing conversations. If your child has a presentation coming up, help them prepare beforehand by practicing in front of you so they feel more confident about their speaking ability.

Dealing with Your Child’s Social Anxiety 

Remember that there are varying degrees of social anxiety, and your child may fall on different ends of the spectrum depending on the situation. In any case, being patient with them is important to remember when helping them deal with their anxiety.

When your child turns to you for help, make sure to be patient with them. Sympathize by sharing a time when you felt anxious and let them know they’re not alone. Keep working with them to get their anxiety under control, and frequently check up on their progress.

Author of this article Alexis Schaffer received her undergraduate degree in psychology and is a registered nurse. In her free time she teaches yoga and writes for various online publications. She’s also the proud dog mom of a beagle named Dobby.