Social Anxiety and Phobias: Understanding The Parents’ Role
Confidence plays a big role in the social and emotional development of a child. A child who is excessively shy to the point of being socially-phobic finds her confidence waning every moment. Social participation sends her into a panic mode; but her mind wants to enjoy life unencumbered, unfortunately she is unable to do so. Read this article to know how you can help your child overcome her social anxieties and re-construct her life in affirming ways.
Social phobia creates extreme turmoil in the mind of a child. While on one hand she might want to step out of her inhibitions; on the other hand her fears pin her down. She might experience an overwhelming relief when she avoids a social situation. However, slowly she begins to realize that this relief is only temporary. What follows is a long battle where she would mourn for the opportunities lost, chances missed, and an overriding remorse for all these. However, this remorse does nothing for the fears and phobias, which only multiply with each passing moment. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child’s social phobia is not robbing her of her joy of life.
How Can Parents Help in Managing Social Anxiety in Their Children?
Preparing your child realistically for situations ahead would help her deal with them. Instead of making generic statements like, “You are going to make an awesome speech”, tell her, “You are going to learn something of great value from this whole experience. It will help you to become more confident in coming days.”
2. Be Patient
Social anxiety does not vanish with the turn of a magic wand. It involves a lot of hard work and an optimistic outlook. If your child does not overcome her anxiety despite her efforts, encourage her; tell her that the first times are always the hardest.
3. Communicate with School Teachers
Partner with the school authorities and deal with this issue in a constructive and objective manner.
4. Connect with Your Child
Bond with your child; tell her about the time you felt your throat going dry in front of a large audience. Motivate her by telling that she will definitely overcome all these obstacles eventually, if she makes up her mind for it with a strong determination.
5. Adopt a Positive Temperament
Not all days are the same. Some days can be particularly frustrating when you do not see the desired results. Keep your calm and maintain a positive attitude throughout. Refrain from criticising your child and labelling her as shy.
6. Positive Attention
Do not let your child be defined by her shyness alone. Focus on other aspects of her personality such as creativity and sensitivity. Tell her how proud she makes you at times. Foster her self-esteem whenever possible.
7. Reward Brave, Non-Anxious Behaviour
When your child steps out of her comfort zone and exhibits an act of boldness, praise her and offer small rewards.
8. Prevent Avoidance
Do not protect your child by making phone calls on her behalf, speaking for her in stores, ordering her favourite food in the restaurant, etc. Understand that by doing all these, you are only pushing her further into the abyss. Explain to her gently why you are refusing to engage in her behaviours. Let her handle her social tasks in a gradual, progressing manner. Build her confidence step by step.
9. Prompt Your Child To Cope Constructively
Never commit the mistake of pushing your child blindly into situations. Sit with her and brainstorm. Let her come up with her own solutions.
10. Limit Reassurance
Be realistic with your child. Do not offer irrational reassurances. Do not hinder yourself from spelling out the possible outcomes to her. Assure her of your support even in the worst case.
11. Help Your Child To Use a Problem-Solving Approach
- Make a summary of what your child told you about her experiences.
- Brainstorm along with her on the possible ways in which the anxiety may be reduced.
- Make sure not to take over the task for your child or tell him/her what to do.
- Verbally assess each idea in terms of outcomes. Ask questions such as, “What do you think would happen if you did this? Do you think that would help to reduce your anxiety in the long-run? What according to you is the worst thing that could happen? What is the likelihood that it would happen?”
- Appreciate your child for discussing possible solutions to overcome her problem
- Encourage your child to select the strategy that allows her to approach situations which she fears rather than avoiding them. This will most likely help to have a positive outcome.
Finally, remember that your child is more than just all her fears and anxieties put together. She is an individual struggling to make her place in this world. Hold her hand and help her navigate the troubled waters with your wisdom; she will emerge radiant and victorious.