Helping Your Toddler Overcome Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is something that everyone faces at one point or another. Even toddlers are susceptible to dealing with social anxiety. As children begin to develop, they must deal with many new and varying types of situations. Some of which can produce intense social anxiety.
Watching our toddlers deal with social anxiety can make any parent feel helpless. Luckily, there are many things we can do to help guide them through this uncomfortable process.
Remember that social anxiety is not just a fear of social interaction, it’s actually linked to an intense fear of facing negative judgement by those around them. It’s not helpful to force your child into unfamiliar social activates. Instead, look for ways to help them identify their fears and help to alleviate them in meaningful ways.
When Does Social Anxiety Start?
Typically, children begin to struggle with social anxiety disorders around age thirteen. However, it’s not uncommon for children as young as three to experience social anxiety. Studies have also found that social anxiety is sometimes the result of childhood trauma or PTSD. This includes bullying and teasing from peers, problems at home, and other traumas.
Whatever the trigger may be, social anxiety looks different in each person. Some children may have a fear of performing in front of others and others may not like any social interactions at all. In any case, it’s important that we learn what triggers our child’s anxiety, so we can help them manage it.
Helping Your Toddler Cope with Anxiety
One of the best ways to help your child deal with anxiety is to love and accept them for who they are. If we find ourselves criticizing our children often, they may start to grow afraid of making mistakes. Discourage an emphasis on perfection and encourage a desire to do their best instead.
Teaching your child about social anxiety and other forms of mental health problems is important for helping them understand what they’re feeling. Toddlers need to develop strong introspection skills and be able to understand their thoughts and feelings when they have sudden changes in mood.
By starting early and teaching your toddler about social anxiety, you can help them learn to manage it on their own. As they start to grow older, they will need to understand what triggers their fears so they can self-regulate their feelings. This is comparable to recognizing when you’re tired and then going and taking a nap.
As we grow older it’s helpful for us to be able to recognize specific feelings so we can determine our needs. Next, you’ll need to teach them various techniques they can use when they start to feel anxious. The goal isn’t to stuff uncomfortable feelings but learn healthy ways of dealing with them.
Techniques to Overcome Social Anxiety
There are many excellent methods we can learn to help manage social anxiety. It’s important not to avoid social situations, but instead, find ways to adapt to them.
A great technique for dealing with social anxiety is to learn deep breathing. Deep breathing is an excellent way for people to calm down their nerves. It helps slow down our heart rate and lets us feel like we can take full breaths. Try using visual aids to teach your toddler about deep breathing.
Another good way for both adults and children to cope is through art and journaling. As our toddlers start to get older, we can teach them to use their creativity as an outlet for anxiety. This could be through painting, writing, dance or even music. There are many creative outlets that are useful for managing anxiety.
Administering with Your Child’s Social Anxiety
It’s never easy or fun to watch your child struggle with socializing, and it’s especially hard to watch them deal with something they don’t fully understand. The best thing you can do is to learn more about social anxiety yourself and educate your child about how to manage it in a healthy way.
It is also important to remember to love and accept your child for who they are; anxiety and all. If they struggle with social anxiety reassure them that you still love them and that it’s completely normal. Consider sharing a time when you felt anxious over a social situation. This will help them to feel less alone.
This Article is written by Alex Schaffer
Alexis Schaffer received her undergraduate degree in psychology and is a registered nurse. In her free time, she teaches yoga and writes for various online publications. She’s also the proud dog mom of a beagle named Dobby.
You can check some of her published articles here!