Children are a funny breed, one moment, they are laughing and playing, and the next, they are so painfully shy that you end up wondering what is wrong with them. That being said, social anxiety in children is becoming more and more common as children are required to have less face-to-face contact with others.
A child may face a few different types of social anxiety and a few different ways to deal with them. Though your child may be painfully shy forever, it does not hurt to try and open their horizons a bit.
What Causes Social Anxiety in Children?
Several things cause social anxiety in children, and they are not all that easy to avoid. The most common, however, is the structure of their home life. Children are creatures of habit; much like an animal in a zoo wears a path around their cage, children will fall into a pattern that makes them feel safe. If their pattern, for instance, is disrupted by a dog that attacks them, they may become leery of all animals and develop anxiety.
If they are around a child that teases them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they may similarly develop anxiety. Just about any anxiety disorder can be traced back to something about the child’s home life. You should take the time if your child does have an anxiety disorder to think about routines and the home life that your child has developed.
Social Anxiety With Other Children
One of the most common types of social anxiety in children is towards other children. This can stem from a bad experience in school to their not being exposed to other children at a young age. Though most children are hesitant to play with one another without some encouragement, generally, they warm up and start to play.
In some cases, however, as with children that suffer from social anxiety disorders like autism, it is not possible to condition a child to enjoy or even tolerate the company of other children or people. In cases where your child is simply shy, however, you can start by working with your child to accept the presence of other children.
A great way to do this is to take them to public places where there are likely other children they will have to interact with. Do not force interaction; offer plenty of opportunities for interaction to occur naturally.
Social Anxiety with Adults
Another common form of social anxiety in children is anxiety for adults. This is something that Who can remedy early on. Though some personalities will never enjoy being around other people, you can again do exposure therapy to help with anxiety. In many cases, this type of anxiety stems from children’s interactions with adults at home.
If they live in a home where their parents are authoritarian and frequent punishment, they may be suspicious of other adults. In homes where adults are overly attentive, these children may also have trouble dealing with other adults.
In most cases, children will learn to deal with adults as there is nothing they can do to avoid them. However, if you feel your child has a mental aversion to adults that is not justified or normal per se, you may need to delve a little deeper into ruling out abuse.
Social Anxiety in New Places
Still another common type of anxiety in children comes from their being in new places. Though it may be impossible to avoid taking your child to new places, you can help condition them to accept new places. In most cases, this type of anxiety stems from unstable home life.
This may mean frequently moving for jobs or other reasons, homes where people come and go, and homes where consistency is an issue. A great way to remedy this type of anxiety is to get your child into a routine and let them know that even if they are not comfortable at the new store they have to go to, their home will always be a safe place. Again, providing a safe and consistent place is the best way to help remedy this fear.
Social Anxiety around Animals
Another common anxiety comes when children are around animals. This is much easier to control as animals do not regularly roam the streets. You may come across a squirrel, but most animals will avoid humans. In cases where you visit a friend that may have a pet, for example, you can do several things.
You can first try to acclimate your child to the animal by allowing them to see that it will hurt them and that you are there for protection. Another option is to ask your friend to keep the animal hidden. And still another option is to allow your child to tell you when they feel comfortable and when they feel threatened.
How Are Common Social Anxieties?
Social anxiety is much more common in children than you might expect. Often, crying in babies can be attributed to some anxiety or another that is worrying them. Similarly, children that often cry for no reason likely have some sort of anxiety that they need to work out.
More children suffer from social anxiety now than ever before because there are so many things that keep a child from dealing with human interactions. For example, hours of video games and watching television have helped desensitize children to human interaction, making it far easier for them to develop anxieties.
How Are They Treated?
There are a few ways that Who can treat anxieties in children. One is through therapy. This can either be administered by a professional or can be little therapies that you do with your child on your own. This can be as simple as allowing your child to talk about what is bothering them to something as complex as immersion therapy that requires a person to confront what scares them.
These are the natural ways to deal with anxiety. However, some parents may choose to go the medical route and get medication prescribed to their children. Inhibitors have been known to work and help inhibit the release of chemicals in the brain that cause stress associated with anxiety. This may be helpful in the most extreme cases but is generally not needed in mild cases.
If your child is suffering from anxiety, it may be best to talk to a professional about treatment options and what you can do to get your child functioning again. Though it may seem like they are only a bit shy, it could be something much more serious, and it is always helpful to rule out all possibilities when dealing with something as serious as social anxiety in children. Taking the time to listen to your children is the first step; doing something about it is another step entirely.