Pay Your Bill
5 Ways to Help Your Child Manage Social Anxiety

By Pam Dewey • social anxiety, kids and social anxiety, children social anxiety, managing social anxiety, helping kids manage social anxiety, children and social anxiety, managing kids social anxiety • February 10, 2022

Maybe you remember being the new kid at school. Or perhaps you got nervous about going to a slumber party. Being a kid can be hard, especially if you have social anxiety. According to Mayo Clinic, “In contrast to everyday nervousness, social anxiety disorder includes fear, anxiety and avoidance that interfere with relationships, daily routines, work, school or other activities.”

Here are 5 ways to help your child manage their social anxiety.

Figure out what is causing the anxiety

Your child might be experiencing anxiety because they’re uncomfortable in large groups. Or maybe they struggle in new situations. They could also be dealing with anxiety about being apart from you. Meeting new kids could also be why your child is having a hard time. Once you know what is causing the anxiety, you can help your child address the issue.

Try a social narrative or role-playing

You can help your child with new social situations by creating a social narrative. Social narratives, also called pre-visit stories, explain new experiences and decrease the anxiety around unfamiliar or potentially overwhelming events. The narratives highlight the parts of an experience that might be the most challenging and provide strategies your child can use, if they feel overwhelmed. The stories include pictures of the new experience, so your child can familiarize themselves before and prepare for any difficult moments. Here are some tips to help you create a social narrative.

Role-playing can also help your child get ready to meet new kids. The Child Mind Institute suggests you practice simple questions with your child, like, “Hi, I’m Tom. What do you like to play?” This should help your child break the ice when they meet another kid. And even though you can’t prepare for every conversation, having some idea of what to say should help them feel less awkward.

Teach them how to self-soothe

Another way to help your child manage their social anxiety is by teaching them how to self-soothe when they feel anxious. Suggest calming strategies like going for a walk, taking five deep breaths or closing their eyes for 15 seconds.

Plan your arrival carefully

You may want to arrive late to a social engagement or leave a little early. Keeping the visit shorter can make it much easier for your child to manage their social anxiety. Arriving early may also be beneficial for some children. The Child Mind Institute quotes mom Debbie Weingarten, “If we are going to a new group or activity, it helps to get there fifteen minutes early so we can enjoy the space without the chaos of other kids and settle in slowly.”

Encourage small steps forward

Your child likely won’t be ready to jump right in at a party or another new experience. That’s okay. Suggest they start small. Maybe your child begins by watching the other kids play a game; then you can encourage them to move closer; then maybe they start playing separately and eventually, when your child is comfortable, they’ll start playing the game with the other kids. Or perhaps going out to dinner makes your child anxious. Have them start by thanking the waitperson, then maybe they can ask for the menu or order their drink and, eventually, your child might be ready to order their own meal.

Even if your child only manages to watch kids playing a game or join the other kids for cupcakes, you should praise their small steps toward engaging with other kids. This will encourage them to keep trying and is much healthier than making them feel bad about their anxiety.

Social anxiety likely feels overwhelming to your child. But you can help them cope by figuring out the cause, trying a social narrative or role-playing, teaching them how to self-soothe, planning your arrival to social situations and encouraging their small steps forward.

Some children may also benefit from therapy to help them develop their social skills or deal with their anxiety.