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Sometimes, during the course of growing up, your toddler might become a victim of too many social anxieties. If these anxieties make him unhappy and disrupt his normal routine, you should look out for means to tackle it. Read this article to understand how to make your toddler more confident socially.
Growing up is complex. Sometimes things work against you, or at least your toddler perceives it that way. If your toddler experiences continuous bouts of anxiety that disrupt his daily activities or which makes him less confident, he is said to experience social anxiety.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
Dealing with social anxiety requires compassion, sensitivity and putting yourself in your child’s shoes. Look out for these signs in your toddler:
- Excessive fear of being humiliated by peers and teachers (Yes! Toddlers also know humiliation)
- Inhibited to raise hands to answer even known or familiar questions
- Shows reluctance to go to swimming classes or gym where there would be many children
- Avoids eye contact
- Tantrums and panic attacks in case of social performance situations
- Exhibits signs of specific anxieties and phobias such as separation anxiety, separation phobia, panic disorder, etc.
- Dreads meeting strangers, outings, speaking on a telephone, talking to authority figures such as teachers, mentors, etc.
- Low self-esteem
- Extreme fear of nervousness being noticed
A child with social anxiety would be typically suffering from these symptoms:
- Redness on the face
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating or hot flashes
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Stomach upset, nausea (i.e. butterflies)
- Trembling or shaking voice
- Racing heart or tightness in the chest
Treatment – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Social phobia is treated by focusing on physical symptoms, identifying anxiety-leading thoughts and developing coping mechanisms. This is known as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) where the toddlers are gradually taught to replace negative, destructive thoughts with positive affirming ones. Usually, in case of toddlers and younger children, parents are trained in CBT who then go on to provide therapy to their offspring. CBT helps you to identify unhelpful belief systems in your little one and make a gradual shift to realistic and balanced thinking. It also involves developing social skills in your child so that he reacts positively to situations and people.
However, as parents or caregivers, you should learn to stay calm, patient and take one day at a time while dealing with your socially anxious toddler. Give your child full attention when he’s voicing his worst fears. Appreciate him when he has conquered it. Don’t laugh. Let your little one know that he’s not the only one who’s going through these phobias. Tell a childhood tale when you went through the same thing. Tell him that fears are only temporary. Encourage your child to develop coping mechanisms such as calm breathing or rational thinking.
Finally, learn to accept your child for what he is. Sometimes, parents unconsciously trigger these panic attacks in their little ones through unrealistic expectations. Remember, some children are naturally shy – as long as he is happy with his little circle of friends, games and butterflies, it should not worry you.