The best way to help your child cope with social anxiety is to name it. Children who suffer from social anxiety know that they feel afraid and anxious in social situations but they may not always be able to understand why this is. Helping them connect the dots between emotional responses, physical symptoms, and triggers is an important first step toward learning to cope. Educating your child about the ways in which anxiety impacts thinking and behavior is a powerful lesson in learning to work through negative emotions.
Teach them relaxation strategies to tackle social anxiety
- If your child is feeling dizzy and having a shortness of breath, deep breathing is the best relaxation strategy. Ask the child to visualize blowing a balloon while they breathe in and out and teach them to hold their breath for 4 counts.
- Guided imagery: Your child can take a relaxing adventure in their mind while engaging in deep breathing. Tell a quick story in a low and even voice to help your child find her center.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. When kids are under social anxiety, they tend to tense up their muscles which adds to the sensation of being stuck. Teach them how to start relaxing muscles to remove tension. Make a tight fist then slowly relax and let go and ask them to do the same. Then move on to neck, shoulders and feet.
Cognitive re-framing for social anxiety relief
Kids who experience social anxiety often are overwhelmed by negative beliefs that may reinforce anxious thoughts. Their beliefs fall into the following categories.
- Always assuming the worst
- Believing that others see them negatively
- Personalizing everything
Guide your child to recognize negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Help them see things realistically and not to take everything personally.
Teach kids problem solving skills
Children with social anxiety disorders tend to become masters of avoidance. They do what they can to avoid engaging in situations that cause the most anxiety. While this might seem like the path of least resistance, it can actually make the social anxiety worse over time. Teach your child to work through feelings of fear and anxiety by developing problem-solving skills.