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HELP! Child Social Anxiety & The Holiday Season.

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Here are some ways you can understand how to make your child feel more comfortable, overcome their internal battles and embellish their holiday spirit!

As we approach the Christmas holidays, our schedules become crowded with social events, and family festivities. Children (and us) can often begin to feel overwhelmed with the expectation to keep up with this eventful period of the year, provoking levels of social anxiety. When your child already has social anxiety this time of year can make the situation more challenging.

So, in order to understand how you can help your child ease the burden of social anxiety, it is imperative to know;

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder can range from fear of judgement within our interpersonal interactions to nervousness when speaking in front of a big group of people. Social anxiety in children is a very common experience, often heightened around the Christmas holiday period as we begin to interact with more people more frequently, providing further opportunities for social anxiety to arise.

It is important for both you and your child to know that these feelings of self – consciousness and embarrassment are okay to feel and to talk about and that social anxiety can be overcome.

Social anxiety disorder can be genetic or a consequence of unresolved feelings of insecurity often developed within childhood and teenage life stages. This is why it is important to identify social anxiety within your child earlier rather than later, so that we can work through it rather than it progressing towards a full-blown disorder.

But, how can I know if my child is suffering from social anxiety?

As parents, we are constantly looking out for our child’s best interests and reassuring them to speak out to us about whatever struggles they are going through. However, social anxiety can often be an ‘embarrassing’ or difficult topic to discuss from your child’s perspective.

Children may feel ashamed to speak out about their struggles, especially during times when an individual’s feelings may seem insignificant in comparison to the rush of annual holidays. As a consequence, sometimes our children’s adversities can go unnoticed.

Here are some signs to help you identify whether your child may be dealing with social anxiety;

  • Struggles to join social groups

  • Has a limited number of friends

  • Has difficulty meeting new people

  • Seems withdrawn within group situations

  • Avoids circumstances where they might be the focus of attention or judged negatively

  • Refusing to speak in social situations

  • Clinging to their parents

  • Crying/temper tantrums

  • Not wanting to go to school or attend social parties and gatherings

Some physical symptoms can also include;

  • Blushing

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Out of breath

  • Dizziness or light-headedness

  • Trembling

  • Sweating

  • Upset stomach or nausea

Okay, so I understand what social anxiety is and how to identify it.

What do I do now?

There are plenty of methods you can use to help your child without being too forward about their social anxiety. It is a sensitive topic to address, so be gentle, understanding, and most importantly; supportive.

Here are some steps you can take to be able to have an easy and light conversation with your child regarding their social anxiety;

  • Before sitting down to speak with your child, find a safe environment and an appropriate time that you both feel comfortable with. For example, in the comfort of their own home and not in a moment of anxiety.

  • Explain to them that it is okay to feel anxious around social situations and that you are there for them whenever they need you. Ask them to identify how they are feeling and what they want from you in these situations. They might not be ready to express themselves immediately, so be patient and allow them to revisit the conversation when they need. Knowing that you understand their situation and are willing to help them in the future will take some of the pressure off.

  • Help them feel comfortable talking about their social anxiety by sharing your own experiences, how you’ve overcome your own anxiety within social situations, and how you’ve faced your own fears. This will remind them that they are not alone and reinforce that you were able to get through it.

  • ‘Detective Thinking’ is another method which could encourage your child to become more confident in themselves. Talk about or even act out social situations that they are worried about, and aim to come up with strategies they can use to make social interactions easier.

  • Rephrase their concerns; for example, you can talk about a Christmas party coming up and instead of worrying about not knowing anyone, discuss the possibilities, "I wonder how many new friends you will make"

  • Talking to your child before social events about their attributes and qualities may also ease the burden of social anxiety. For example, encouraging them to say 5 good things about themselves before entering a social gathering allows for a sense of self-appreciation and security.

  • Identify social situations in which they are comfortable and use this as a strength, for example, if your child says “I am always scared to be in big crowds” help them identify times where that is not the case “that’s not true, can you list some situations in crowds you are okay with, like the shopping centres and your soccer games on Saturday.”

  • Avoid criticising your child for their difficulty in social situations. Instead of putting them down by labelling them as ‘quiet’, ‘shy’, or explicitly identifying their social anxiety, aim to focus on their efforts. If they or someone else uses labels you can change it around by saying “they are not shy, they just need a little more time to feel comfortable around people they don’t know”.

  • Exposure is key; put them in new settings that are less intimidating and return to specific social situations they once feared but now feel comfortable in. Remind them of how they felt when they first came there and enjoy it.

  • Praise their efforts and small successes too. For example, if your child does something they are typically anxious about; recognize their bravery with lots of praise.

Remember to not let the burden of social anxiety dampen your Christmas spirit or keep you from enjoying your special moments. Rather look at it as the perfect opportunity to teach and help your child develop and master their social skills.

These are only a few helpful tips to help your child with managing social anxiety. If you would like further assistance or have any questions, don’t hesitate to BOOK your complimentary 30-minute phone consultation.


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