Children with the disorder feel highly uncomfortable in social settings, and in some cases, it can hinder their ability to perform everyday tasks.
The pandemic has been unprecedently upsetting for the kids, who are not only facing heightened risks of illness but have had to adapt to newer means of living- from online schooling, virtual playdates to what not.
For many kids and youngsters (and their parents!), one of the most demanding aspects of the pandemic was not seeing friends in person.
While the restrictions are slowly unlocking and people are beginning to get out slowly, the transition time can be daunting for children.
Not only will they face worries about their safety when they step outside, being out and around after spending prolonged periods of confinement could make them suffer from social anxiety. Social anxiety is more than just shyness.
At a time like this, parents need to support their kids and help them overcome fears and manage any stress they may be going through.
But with COVID-19 vaccines accessible for anyone 12 or older, more social activities are elevating – plus whole in-person learning!
As exhilarating as this is for many kids, there are plenty of others who might be hesitant about a rebound to pre-pandemic social pressures.
Is your child anxious about returning to the classroom and other social situations?
Here are some tips to help kids cope with anticipatory social anxiety:
- Acknowledge that new situations can be terrifying.
Recall what it felt like to be the new kid at school, get allotted to an elementary school classroom with none of your friends, or appear at a party where you didn’t know anybody but the host?
Some individuals can dive right into those situations and prosper right away! That’s perfectly normal. But other kids need some time to get used to a new position.
Almost every kid around the world is beginning to re-enter social situations they haven’t been in for an entire year. For all of us, executing something new – or even something we haven’t done for a while – can be a bit scary.
- Talk to kids about how they feel.
If you notice that your child is nervous or hesitant to jump back into social situations, talk to them about it!
- First, make sure you validate how they’re feeling. Many kids feel shy in new settings – and re-engaging in post-pandemic socialization is undoubtedly a contemporary setting. Cheer them that it is normal to feel worried or scared at timeswhile also explaining that what feels scary now will feel normal later.
- If possible, talk about other times they could do something successfully that they were initially worried about– like going on a roller coaster, trying a new sport or extracurricular activity, or even the first day of a new school year.
- Help your child put themselves out there.
Repeated exposure to a feared stimulus is one of the best ways to decrease anxiety. In kid-friendly terms, this means that doing something scary – especially several times – helps your child feel less scared the next time they tackle the same situation.
- It’s helpful to start small and builds – so maybe suggest that your child begins by getting together with just one friend before joining an entirely new soccer team or introduce themselves to a classmate before trying to have an entire conversation.
- The anticipation before a new activity can often be the most challenging part, so make sure you schedule these activities in the not-too-distant future (following current COVID-19 safety guidelines). This way, your child can engage in the movement and then build on that success instead of simply wondering – and worrying – about when it will happen.
- Remember to praise your childafter they complete the activity, so they know how proud you are! (Just make sure you change your praise based on your child’s age – a big hug might be great for an elementary school student, whereas a simple “nice job” might be more appropriate for your teen.)
- Remember that it’s OK to spend some time alone.
As excited as you might be to set up playdates and watch your child hang out with other kids at school again, remember that solo time is not only OK but healthy!
This time can be used for creativity, exploring new hobbies, and mastering existing ones. Plus, it can also help kids know that they are capable of entertaining themselves.
Every child and family will have a different balance of social time and alone time – especially as we continue to get closer and closer to post-pandemic times.
From online classes, work from home stress, and keeping kids safe, parenting during the pandemic can be challenging. The fear and uncertainty associated with being at home and navigating the new standard can make it difficult for parents to manage duties. For parents to keep kids safe, overcoming anxiety and managing mental health