Teenagers today are being raised in a different world then the one in which their parents grew up. Part of this new world is a growing awareness of mental health challenges that many parents had never heard of as teenagers. While this growing awareness is good, it can be confusing for people who don’t have previous experience with mental health challenges. One of the most misunderstood mental health issues that teens experience is social anxiety.
“Social anxiety is a condition that causes people to experience nervousness when interacting with others. There is often a feeling of doing something embarrassing, or being judged or criticized. This type of anxiety can lead to people avoiding social situations and can even have a negative impact on their daily lives,” says Ovia Health Expert, Tamika Simpson.
If your child has been diagnosed with social anxiety or you suspect that they are experiencing it, here are the steps you can take to help your child manage social anxiety.
Seek therapeutic help
Social anxiety is not something that kids can will themselves to get over. If your child’s social anxiety is impacting their daily life, their overall mood, or their ability to enjoy regular activities, it’s time to seek help. Many children and adolescents find that working with a therapist allows them to identify strategies and patterns of thinking that can be helpful as they navigate the world.
Listen to them when they share their feelings
As parents, we often want to fix things for our children. Unfortunately, we cannot fix social anxiety, even if we think we have the best suggestions and ideas in the world. When your child comes to you and shares their feelings, do your best to listen with openness and curiosity and avoid offering input or suggestions unless they ask you to. Asking follow up questions like,“What makes you think that?” or “How would you feel if that happened,” can help you get a deeper understanding of the way your child thinks.
Ask them what they need
Only your child knows what they want and need from you. Instead of making assumptions around how they will feel about certain situations or what they will want you to do, ask them explicitly and then do your best to meet their needs. Even asking what they would like from you can be a powerful way to inspire kids and teens to really consider their needs and desires.
Don’t expect to solve everything all at once
Many teens who experience social anxiety also have other mental health challenges. Instead of hoping to wave a magic wand and fix everything all at once, let your child set the tone and pace of your support and do your best to meet them where they are. Celebrate small wins and let your child know that your home is a safe space and you’ll be there for them no matter what.
Social anxiety can be particularly challenging for older kids and teenagers to navigate as so much of their world revolves around their peers. Getting them the help and support they need and being a consistent and non-judgemental presence in their life will go a long way towards helping them thrive!
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team