Social Anxiety: 6 Articles

Understanding social anxiety in children

Help Your Child Cope with Social Anxiety

Many kids are shy around strangers, but “warm up” after becoming familiar with a person or situation. But sometimes kids experience fear and anxiety about participating in everyday social situations like playing with neighborhood kids and attending school. In Shannon Anderson’s book, Too Shy to Say Hi, Shelli’s fears and anxieties prevent her from joining in on activities she would certainly enjoy. In this excerpt from the Reader’s Note in Too Shy to Say Hi, Dr. Elizabeth McCallum explores the difference between shyness and social anxiety and offers tips to help your child feel more confident and relaxed in social situations. Shyness or Social Anxiety? Shyness is a part of many kids’ temperament, or the personality traits that determine the unique way in which they interact with the world. It may take a shy child a little while to get comfortable with a new person or situation. However, sometimes shyness is so extreme that it interferes with a person’s social development, causing significant distress. Social anxiety is a term used to describe when a person avoids everyday social activities because they’re worried about being judged or fear behaving in ways that might bring about embarrassment. Usually people with social anxiety don't have any trouble interacting with family members and close friends, but the idea of meeting new people, speaking in public, or unfamiliar situations can put their anxiety symptoms into high gear. Fight-or-Flight? We all feel anxious or scared sometimes. In fact, feeling anxious can be helpful in certain situations. Our bodies and brains are hardwired to feel anxious and respond to these feelings with our fight-or-flight response. When our brains sense danger, they release adrenaline and other chemicals that cause all kinds of bodily reactions: quickened heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, and even goosebumps. Evolutionarily speaking, the fight-or-flight response helped to keep us safe from predators. Today the fight-or-flight response continues to keep us safe from different dangers like walking into oncoming traffic or eating spoiled foods. But what about when the danger isn’t real? When someone has social anxiety, or any type of anxiety problem, they feel anxious in situations where there is no real danger at all. Their fight-or-flight response gets activated too frequently, too powerfully, and in situations where it isn’t actually necessary. How Does Social Anxiety Affect Daily Life? Social anxiety is a common mental health diagnosis in childhood, with the typical age of onset between 8 and 15 years old. People with social anxiety have fears regarding their social performance. They tend to be highly self-conscious and have an extreme fear of being judged by others. School, for example, is a very social time for kids. Kids may spend hours at school each weekday, interacting with peers and teachers. Social anxiety can keep kids from participating in everyday school and extracurricular activities. Unstructured time, like lunch or recess, may be the worst for these kids because there is the most opportunity for social rejection. Some kids may also avoid raising their hands in class

Read More
Help Your Child Cope with Social Anxiety 2021-03-03T21:08:49-05:00

Too Shy to Say Hi

Shelli was content with her pet friends with feathers, fins, and fur.  Her bird would keep her company at home, her fish would hideaway in his cave, and her dog was the social butterfly of the neighborhood. Shelli is shy. Often too shy to even say 'hi!' But now, Shelli is determined to try to make friends with kids at school. Hear  author Shannon Anderson read Too Shy to Say Hi aloud and hear how Shelli takes brave steps toward breaking out of her shell. Shannon also suggests a simple craft to help manage worries.

Read More
Too Shy to Say Hi 2021-03-11T15:56:40-05:00

Tips to Help Your Socially Anxious Child Stay Engaged Amid COVID-19

Around the world, children’s social lives have drastically changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent physical distancing.  For many children, these changes represent major losses of beloved activities, including school, extra-curricular activities, and playdates. For socially anxious children, however, the many cancellations may come as a relief since they no longer need to attend potentially anxiety-provoking activities. As a parent or caretaker, it can be concerning to watch your socially anxious child withdraw during this already challenging time. However, there are many small steps you can take to encourage your child to be social and build skills in this area—even during the pandemic. Why Facing Fears is Important  It is important for socially anxious children to practice engaging in social situations, even though it is hard. This is because when children consistently avoid something that they fear, their brain misses out on several key learning opportunities. These include the chance to learn that the situation is rarely as bad as anxiety predicts it will be, that they can handle feelings of anxiety even though they are uncomfortable, and that their level of anxiety will likely decrease if they stay in the social situation. In a socially anxious child’s typical day to day life, they have countless opportunities to practice engaging in social situations to teach their brain these important lessons. By creating opportunities for your socially anxious child to continue to engage with peers in quarantine, you can help their brains continue to learn these lessons.  Create a Bravery Plan Sit down with your child and explain that you want to help them boss back anxiety and continue to practice facing fears, as they were doing so bravely before the quarantine started. It can be helpful to reflect together on how they feel after pushing themselves to engage in a social situation. Proud? Accomplished? Reflect back often to these observations to help build and maintain your child’s motivation.  Collaboratively brainstorm with your child a list of potential social interactions. Do your best to get creative and try to think of ways to replicate the activities they participate in during their non-quarantine life. These might include (virtual) playdates, book clubs, singalongs, games, concerts, or show and tell with objects from each child’s home. If classmates or peers live nearby, your child might bike, walk, or scoot by their homes and say a physically-distanced hello.  After creating a list, let your child choose where they are comfortable starting. It is usually helpful to start small (e.g., saying “hi” over text to someone they are comfortable with) and eventually build to more challenging interactions. It can be helpful to repeat an activity several times to allow your child to get more comfortable with it before moving on to a slightly harder activity. After your child engages in the activity, have a brief conversation to help them notice if the activity was as scary as anxiety said it would be and if they were able to handle it. This brief reflection helps

Read More
Tips to Help Your Socially Anxious Child Stay Engaged Amid COVID-19 2020-05-22T19:15:33-04:00