A Brilliant Way to Beat Social Anxiety in Children !
For those of us who were brought up during the second half of the 20th century, the trials and stresses of being a young person today are almost unknowable. While we had freedom and space to be children, the onset of technology advances has brought the world of today’s child into a fast-moving, immediate and socially intense arena. In the years before the internet, social activity for us was split between school break-time, the occasional birthday party and evenings playing outside with the other local children. Nowadays it is undeniably different. And the consequences are that we now have a generation of children and teens who are recording higher stress and anxiety levels that any other generation before it.
Socially, todays adolescents have access to each other on a potential 24 hour basis through social media and instant messaging . As a result, this increase in social interaction has led to an increase in social anxiety in children. This can manifest itself in a number of ways including shyness, blushing, awkwardness, avoiding answering questions in class, panic attacks etc.
Also there are the added stresses of dating, exams, using school/public toilets, parties and other social interactions and events.
It is a proverbial minefield for our children out there and we want to help. But how ?
What is Social Anxiety ?
Firstly, it is vital to really understand what social anxiety actually is. There are those who believe it is a complex and difficult issue to have; that it is a part of their personality that children have to learn to deal with. To live with. Put simply, this is not true. What IS true however is that, when left unchecked, children can often take the easiest route from their anxiety, which is to avoid interaction altogether. Avoidance of social situations such as sleep overs, answering questions in class, buying goods in shops, and just generally speaking up for themselves in everyday situations is incredibly common in socially anxious kids. In extreme cases, they can avoid spending any time with other children altogether – some can even find ways to avoid going to school at all.
It can become an all-consuming problem but how do we unlock it ?
The key is self-esteem.
When children have high self-esteem and they feel good about themselves, they feel confident, happy and find it easy to be around other people. Because their sense of self-worth is high, and they are skilled at maintaining these levels themselves, they aren’t reliant on friends or parents to generate these levels for them. With high self-esteem, they are resilient and have belief in their own ability to deal with the challenging situations that they will inevitably encounter during their school lives. So when self-esteem is maintained at a high level, they don’t feel the need to avoid, worry or brood about social interactions because they have the self-belief to deal with any potentially challenging situations. However, when they lack self-belief and aren’t feeling particularly good about themselves, this often leads to them creating anxiety. They have no confidence in their ability to communicate or express themselves and feel judged as a result. Also, because they feel that their levels of self-esteem are created by life events and how they are viewed by others (friends/parents/teachers), this can fluctuate dramatically on a day to day, and even moment to moment basis !
Teaching your child how to create and maintain great self-esteem, how to be kind, loving and positive about themselves, how to identify and eradicate those harsh, negative, critical thoughts is crucial into changing how they view themselves and the world in which they live.
The main thing I love about my job and the work that I do with children is that I teach them to understand how their thoughts and beliefs about their world create their social anxiety and by also providing them with the tools to change it. An essential component of my work is helping them to recognise and process their positive achievements – something that people with poor self-esteem are not very good at doing!
Building Self-Esteem – brick by brick
One of our young clients, a 15 year old girl, has created a fantastic way of recording and processing her positive achievements in challenging her social anxiety. Using a dry-wipe board, she created a brick wall, and filled in each brick with a positive achievement. This serves as a great reminder to her of all the things she has recently achieved….and makes it much easier for her to believe she can continue to feel confident and challenge herself.
She has also created a social-anxiety to-do list, to help keep her focussed on the other areas she would like to continue working on. She has now completed the programme, and the effort she has put in has really paid off. She really is a totally different girl to the one before she started the Thrive Programme. She is happy, confident and is putting in loads of effort into understanding herself and changing her approach to everything in her life. She is making friends and organising social activities so that she can make more ! A big well done to her and to her mum for her help too!
See more about how Thrive can help here…
I am more than happy to speak to anyone who has concerns about their child and to explain in more detail about how the Thrive Programme is so effective at helping children overcome social-anxiety.