Strategies for parents and educators for navigating social anxiety in children - Hindustan Times

Strategies for parents and educators for navigating social anxiety in children

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Apr 21, 2024 08:39 PM IST

Various things can cause social anxiety in children hence, here are tips for parents and teachers to understand what causes them to be anxious.

Social anxiety is more than just being shyness, especially in children as this is when they feel scared and avoid being in social situations and it can really affect their daily life, making it harder for them to make friends or perform well in school. Various things can cause social anxiety in children hence, it is important for parents, teachers and other people who care for children to understand what causes them to be anxious.

Strategies for parents and educators for navigating social anxiety in children (Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash)
Strategies for parents and educators for navigating social anxiety in children (Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash)

Low self-esteem can result from the constant fear of negative evaluation, gradually eroding a child's self-confidence and self-worth over time. Early identification and appropriate interventions, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or social skills training, can help children manage social anxiety and improve their quality of life.

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When they know this, they can help children feel better and learn how to deal with their anxieties. By creating a safe and supportive environment, we can help children feel more confident and able to handle social situations.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Mamta Sahai, Child Activist and Gender Equity Consultant at The Design Village, shared, “Social anxiety can significantly impact children in various ways. Socially anxious children may struggle to participate in class discussions, and find it challenging to make friends or maintain friendships due to fear of social judgment or rejection. Consequently, they may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

She revealed, “Physically, social anxiety can manifest in children through symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, sweating, trembling, or blushing when in social situations. Avoidance of social situations altogether is common among children with social anxiety, resulting in missed opportunities for socialization, learning, and personal growth. Overcoming social anxiety is a gradual process that often involves a combination of self-help strategies, professional therapy, and support from friends and family. One helpful strategy is to practice relaxation techniques, which can include learning to challenge and reframe negative thoughts or beliefs about oneself and social interactions.”

According to her, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be particularly helpful in addressing social anxiety. Mamta Sahai suggested, “One effective approach is gradually exposing yourself to feared social situations, starting with less intimidating ones and gradually working your way up. Additionally, it's essential to work on improving your social environment by setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself in social situations. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Seeking professional help is also important. Consider therapy from a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of social anxiety. Remember that overcoming social anxiety is a journey, and progress may be gradual. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your successes along the way.”

Bringing his expertise to the same, Nidheesh Saxena, Senior Director of Admissions at Gitam, cautioned, “Social anxiety can indeed create distress for children, leading to feelings of disconnection from their surroundings. In today's highly connected world, where social interactions are increasingly mediated through digital platforms, children may struggle to garner attention and feel constantly scrutinized by their peers. This heightened visibility and pressure to conform to social norms can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and isolation. As a result, children with social anxiety may withdraw from social situations, further perpetuating their sense of disconnection. It's essential for parents and educators to provide support and understanding, helping children navigate social interactions with confidence and resilience.”

Recognising and understanding one's triggers, thoughts and physical sensations linked to anxiety is fundamental in crafting effective coping mechanisms hence, Nidheesh Saxena advised, “By acknowledging these internal cues, individuals can gain insight into the root causes of their anxiety and identify patterns that exacerbate their distress. This self-awareness serves as a cornerstone for developing personalized strategies to manage anxiety effectively. Whether through cognitive restructuring, relaxation techniques, or gradual exposure therapy, individuals armed with this understanding can proactively address their anxiety and reclaim a sense of control over their emotional well-being.By fostering a nurturing environment that encourages open communication and provides opportunities for skill-building and gradual exposure to social situations, we can empower children to overcome social anxiety and cultivate meaningful connections with others.”

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