Social anxiety disorder is a specific type of anxiety that gets triggered when children are asked to think about or take part in situations. It is considered much more than shyness. Children with this type of anxiety fear that they will be seen badly in social situations. They may only feel comfortable with people they know very well. Social anxiety is a lot like separation anxiety but for older children fear of being away from their caregivers because they need them to survive. The defining feature of social anxiety disorder includes marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the person might be subject to possible scrutiny by others. Examples social interactions, being observed by other people, and performing in front of other people.
Social anxiety disorder cannot be considered as a fear of interacting with other people. But it should actually be considered as an intense fear of social situations in which a child is feeling that they might be judged by the society. Child who is experiencing this feeling of social anxiety they might also experience different triggers that may include speaking in front of others, reading out loud, fear about being judged by others, fear of offending others, fear of embarrassment and fear of communicating with strangers. Children experiencing social anxiety disorder they care so much about what others will think about them how would they react, they care so much about social situations this is the reason why they fear to be in social gatherings.
Social anxiety disorder is the root cause for stress in children and because of which academic performance of the children gets affected. Self-confidence, social relationship and other areas of functioning are negatively affected. Children dealing with social anxiety disorder are most likely to avoid engaging in things like sports other group activities with their peers for fear of negative examination or embarrassment. Parents and other family members can help their children with social anxiety disorder by understanding the nature of the disease and teaching them and supporting them how to cope up with their symptoms.
Social anxiety severely affects older children, it mostly found in teenagers. Children experiencing social anxiety usually have difficulty in meeting other people r joining in groups, they have a very limited number of friends, and they try to avoid social situations where they might be the center of attraction or stand out from others for example: asking or answering questions in classroom or in tuition. They seem to run or withdraw themselves or they are found reserved in group situations. Social anxiety can have some physical signs too including nausea, stomach aches, blushing and trembling. It is not easy to recognize or notice social anxiety. This is because children who have social anxiety are quiet and obedient in preschool or school. They might not communicate about their fears.
Some children mainly found in teenagers develop social anxiety disorder. This when a child’s social anxiety has gone on for more than six months and that significantly will affect child’s life. Children with social anxiety disorder might avoid many situations that mean they have to interact with other people. These situations include talking on the phone, joining teams or clubs and answering questions in class. Social anxiety disorder can be diagnosed in children and it is found in as young as in a four-year-old child, so if the parents find any kind of symptoms in their child, they should take it very seriously and bring that into consideration with the professional help. And also, should support their child no matter what as in this kind of situations they need parents support and affection as they don’t know how this social anxiety disorder can affect their life in long run if not diagnosed at the beginning stage.
Helping children with social anxiety: if your child is suffering from social anxiety you should support your child. There are many things you can do when you are:
· At home with your children
· At preschool or school with your child or in other social situations.
· Talking with your child about their anxious feelings.
Prepare your child for situations that make them feel worried or fearful. Act out the situation at home and practice things they can do to make it easier.
Encourage your child might think that everyone will laugh at them if they answer a question in class. You could ask your child, how do you know they’ll laugh?
Tell your child about times you’ve felt anxious in social situations and how you’ve faced your fear. This will help your child understand that it’s okay to talk about anxious feelings. They’ll also feel that you understand and support them.
When talking with your child: if your child does something that normally makes them anxious for example: talking on the phone acknowledge their bravery with plenty of praise. Tell your child that you are proud of them, as they are trying their best. If other people are around praise your child quietly and make a big deal when you are alone. This will help to foster your child’s self-esteem.
No matter how frustrated you feel, avoid criticizing your child or being negative about their difficulty in social situations. Avoid labelling your child as ‘shy’. If other people comment on your child’s behavior in social situations you could say something in favor of your child to show your affection and support towards the child.
Symptoms of social anxiety are as follows:
· The person may feel that he or she will act in a certain way or manner to show their anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated.
· The social situations always trigger, fear or anxiety in children it is found through failure to speak in front of the class, showing tantrums.
· Social situations are avoided and could be endured with intense feeling of fear and anxiety.
· This fear, anxiety and avoidance in behavior when observed and not been cured could stay for at least six months or more.
· Tantrums faced with anxiety provoking social situations.
· Blaming others for not being able to perform in social situations.
There are some Relaxation Strategies: children need to understand these tools that they can use when they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
· Deep breathing is the best way to calm rapid heart rate. Teach your child to visualize blowing up a balloon while engaging the diaphragm in deep breathing. Count your child out to help slow the breathing 4 in 4 hold 4 out.
· Guided imagery: your child can take a relaxing adventure in her mind while engaging in deep breathing. Tell a short story quickly in a low and even voice to help your child find their center.
· Progressive muscle relaxation: anxious children tend to tense their muscles when they are under stress or under pressure. Teach your children how to relax and release tension start with their hands and arms. Make a fist and hold it tight for five seconds then slowly release. Move on towards your arms, neck, and shoulders, legs and feet.
The connection with learning and thinking differences: children with learning and thinking differences can struggle with unstructured social interaction. They may misread body language or other subtle social cues. As a result to which they may get anxious and always try to withdraw from the situations. It is social anxiety but it is caused and made worse by the underlying learning and thinking differences. Some of the examples case situations would be:
ADHD: a child may blur out something inappropriate. A negative reaction from classmates, school friends may lead that child to begin avoiding group communications.
Dyslexia: a child may try to avoid reading aloud in class by asking to go to the bathroom and to the medical room. Separation from class can reinforce the fear of reading aloud in front of the whole class. The more time the child takes with reading without using effective reading interventions the more likely they are to develop social anxiety.
Educate your children about social anxiety: there is a very low chance that your child know about what social anxiety is all about tell them what it is about as they should be aware about what could happen to them in such kind of situations. Help them identify their symptoms they are facing them, talk to them. Tell them it’s okay to be socially awkward but once the child has identified about their symptoms then do not make them feel inferior. Tell them it’s okay to feel like that and help them further to get rid of it and try and built their confidence.
Teach them coping mechanisms: learning the art of social interactions and dealing with social anxiety. And you must teach your child to cope with such situations. Different coping techniques can involve breathing exercises, relaxing therapies and also providing your child with items that have a soothing effect. Also, equip them with problem solving abilities that can help them look beyond their situation.