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 and less face to face contact with others. There are a few different types of social anxiety that a child may face 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?
There are a number of things that 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 then become leery of all animals and develop an anxiety. If they are around a child that teases them or makes them feel uncomfortable they may similarly develop an anxiety. Just about any anxiety disorder can be traced back to something about the home life of the child. 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 simply not being exposed to other children at a young age. Though most children are hesitant to play with another without some sort of 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 to be other children that they will have to interact with. Do not force interaction, simply offer plenty of opportunities for interaction to occur naturally.
Social Anxiety with Adults
Another common form of social anxiety in children is of course anxiety when it comes to adults. Now this is something that can be remedied early on. Though some personalities will simply 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 the interactions that children have with adults at home. If they live in a home where their parents are authoritarian and punishment is frequent, they may be leery 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 really 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 to rule 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 to condition them to accept new places. In most cases, this type of anxiety stems from an unstable home life. This may mean moving frequently 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 is always going to be a safe place. Providing a safe place that is consistent is the best way to help remedy this fear.
Social Anxiety around Animals
Another common anxiety comes when children are around animals. This is a much easier anxiety to control as animals do not regularly freely roam the streets. You may come across a squirrel but the vast majority of animals will avoid humans. In cases where you go 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 isn’t going to 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 Common Are Social Anxieties?
Social anxiety is much more common in children than you might expect. Often crying in babies an 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. There are more children that suffer from social anxiety now than ever before because there are so many things out there that keep a child from having to deal with human interactions. Hours of video games and watching television have helped to desensitize children to human interaction making it far easier for them to develop anxieties.
How Are They Treated?
There are a few ways that anxieties in children can be treated. 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 something as simple as allowing your child to talk about what is bothering them to something as complex as immersion therapy that requires a person confront what scares them. These are the natural ways to deal with anxiety. Some parents may choose however to go the medical route and get medication prescribed to their child. Inhibitors have been known to work and help to inhibit the release of chemicals in the brain that cause stress that is 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 any sort of 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 it comes to 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.