How to Help a Child with Social Anxiety at School – For Parents and Teachers

Supporting a child with social anxiety at school begins with a deep understanding of their fear of social settings, known as social anxiety disorder or social phobia.

Children with social anxiety often avoid situations where they might be closely observed, such as in a school environment. They may experience behavioural symptoms like reluctance to talk to others, avoiding events, speaking softly, and avoiding eye contact, which makes it hard for them to make friends.

On an emotional level, they frequently worry about feeling helpless and embarrassed. Physically, they might have symptoms like sweating, dizziness, trembling, nausea, and a rapid heart rate, which can sometimes lead to panic attacks.

After identifying the symptoms, parents and schools should learn how to help a child with social anxiety at school. Otherwise, this disorder may impact the child’s ability to thrive in their academic environment and then social situations.

How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School? – For Parents

Parents, living with their children and interacting with them most during their formative years, are well-positioned to notice symptoms of social anxiety. Hence, they have a strong influence on their behaviours.

But how can a parent help a child with social anxiety? By creating a supportive environment at home, parents can give their children the security to express and overcome their fears.

Through attentive observation, parents play a vital role in addressing the impacts of social anxiety on their children. The following solutions will be helpful.

1. Connect with Your Child

Connecting with your child using the PACE method helps them cope with social anxiety effectively by offering a supportive mainstay that addresses the emotional needs of children. Here is how it works:

  • P (Playfulness): Playfulness involves creating a comfortable atmosphere where your children feel relaxed and safe. It doesn’t mean parents need to be funny; rather, it’s about speaking to them in a light tone and with a smile.
  • A (Acceptance): Children have their own thoughts and feelings, which parents should accept without judgment. Parents can help their children develop a greater sense of confidence by respecting their individuality.
  • C (Curiosity): Parents should remain curious and keep asking what is behind their children’s behaviours. This will help them better understand their children and reduce their social anxiety.
  • E (Empathy): Empathy allows parents to connect with their children’s emotions. Then, they can provide comfort and foster a sense of security in their children.

The PACE method addresses the whole child, focusing beyond behaviours. It enables adults to discover their children’s strengths while providing children with a sense of security.

PACE also helps strengthen family bonds by focusing on interactions among members. Once the children feel confident in front of their parents, they will be better at expressing themselves in other environments.

Connect with Your Child
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School? – For Parents: Connect with Your Child

2. Talk about Stress

When the school year begins, children often experience stress because they must adapt to a new environment and make new friends. In this situation, parents can start talking about their concerns to help them reduce stress. This tangible support is what they need to stay emotionally resilient.

Parents can start with open-ended questions during relaxed moments, such as at dinner or after school. They can ask about their children’s new friends and their thoughts on teachers.

Afterwards, parents can proceed to more sensitive topics, such as their children’s challenges. This routine helps school-aged children express their feelings while reassuring them that their parents are always there to listen and support them.

3. Show Them What to Expect

Children feel anxious when they are afraid of what may happen to them. As parents, you can ease their anxiety by showing them what to expect.

For instance, if students are anxious about the upcoming school year, explaining the daily routine, which may resemble that of the previous year, can be helpful. Additionally, informing them that they might encounter familiar peers in their new class can reduce their anxiety.

By making the new experience predictable, you can alleviate their fear. Parents can also encourage their children to express their feelings and ask questions about the upcoming changes to ease their anxiety.

Show Them What to Expect
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School? – For Parents: Show Them What to Expect

4. Teach Your Child about Relaxation Strategies

Relaxation strategies like deep breathing and relaxing muscles can help children calm down. Another method is to redirect their thoughts away from their anxiety. These practices enable them to cope with their anxiety independently when you are not around.

For example, encourage children to think about their favourite hobby or count to 100 whenever they feel anxious. This will reduce the intensity of negative feelings as their minds have to handle other tasks.

Aside from treating anxiety, effective relaxation strategies can help children improve their control over emotions, leading to enhanced mental health and well-being.

5. Teach Your Child about Cognitive Reframing

Children with social anxiety feel insecure in themselves and may give up trying. Hence, children should start by changing their mindset to deal with their fears.

Parents can help by teaching their children about cognitive reframing. The lesson focuses on reducing negative thoughts and highlighting their strengths. By fostering this cognitive flexibility, children can develop an adaptable mechanism when getting stuck in anxiety-provoking situations.

Consistent practice plays a vital role in this journey. Only through repetition can children develop a resilient mindset that enables them to deal with their own fear with ease and confidence.

Teach Your Child about Cognitive Reframing
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School? – For Parents: Show Them What to Expect

6. Focus on Progression, Not Perfection

Teaching children how to cope with their social anxiety is a long journey. Hence, it would be best to focus on progression, not perfection. Parents can set manageable goals so that their children find it easier to combat their fears.

Additionally, celebrate even small achievements. Although facing anxiety is a significant challenge for children, they can become more self-assured day by day, which is also praiseworthy. Small celebrations help them feel more confident and motivated to keep up the good work.

7. Know When to Step In and When to Step Out

What is the best treatment for social anxiety in children? The exact answer may vary depending on the situation. However, one rule can be applied to any case: Parents should know when to step in and when to step out.

Children seek help from their parents to solve their anxiety-related problems. Since lessons in independence are equally essential, parents should encourage their children to confront challenges independently. Balancing these two approaches simultaneously will foster their confidence.

Know When to Step In and When to Step Out
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School? – For Parents: Teach Your Child about Cognitive Reframing

How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School (for Teachers)?

Teachers are responsible for creating a supportive environment that fosters academic and emotional growth and helps students build confidence.

At UNIS Hanoi, the faculty and staff prioritise the holistic development of every student. The Elementary School (ES) fosters a nurturing environment where students can discover their unique significance.

Additionally, teachers at ES support children in becoming active contributors to the school community, which serves as the background for further development in the broader world.

UNIS Hanoi dedicates efforts to equipping students with essential life skills, and handling social anxiety is among them. Here are some tried-and-true methods recommended by UNIS Hanoi:

1. Teach Students to Practice Mindfulness

Teachers teach students to practice mindfulness so they can maintain an awareness of their feelings, thoughts, sensations, and surroundings. Acceptance is the key, as this method requires us to focus on our thoughts without judging them.

Guided meditation is part of mindfulness. Teachers can teach their students to inhale through their noses and exhale through their mouths.

An effective approach is Progressive Muscle Relaxation, in which children tighten and then relax specific muscles to focus on the sensations and changes in their bodies.

The two techniques aim to encourage students to become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Then, they can respond to social anxiety in a more adaptive way.

Teachers should deliver mindfulness lessons throughout the day. These practice sessions come into handy when some students start showing symptoms of social anxiety disorders.

2. Create a Safe Space for Your Students

Students struggle with social anxiety when they feel insecure. As a result, teachers should comfort youngsters by offering them a safe place. It can be a cosy corner in the classroom or anywhere where students can take deep breaths and calm down before starting their classes.

By creating such a supportive environment, teachers can easily notice their students’ challenges and provide practical support to help manage their anxiety throughout the school day.

Create a Safe Space for Your Students
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School (for Teachers): Create a Safe Space for Your Students

Teachers can also use this opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with anxious students and offer personalised strategies to help them overcome their emotional problems.

3. Give Your Students Rewards

While parents celebrate small achievements for their children at home, teachers can try the same method at school. A reward system in class can support students with social anxiety by encouraging them to participate comfortably.

Teachers can choose the best rewards based on their class’s interests and hobbies. Incentives like homework passes, early dismissal, or more rest time may all work.

The more challenging the tasks, the more appealing the rewards. For example, students have to make a presentation in the team to earn valuable prizes. This approach fosters teamwork and motivates children to overcome their anxieties to achieve what they desire.

4. Apply Zero-Tolerance Rules

Zero-tolerance rules are widely implemented in schools to set ground rules for schoolers. Those who violate the rules will face strict disciplinary measures.

This method is beneficial for helping children with social anxiety because they believe that strict rules lead to a safe environment. Many students are scared when going to school because of discrimination and harassment. However, if the zero-tolerance rules are implemented, they can focus on learning and social interaction without worrying about becoming a victim.

5. Assign a Partner

If students feel isolated in their class, encourage them to choose a partner. Pairing a socially anxious student with a confident one can be very beneficial. This way, the shy child can seek guidance and reassurance from their partner, helping develop a sense of inclusion and support.

Moreover, the partner system makes social interactions less scary to shy students. Walking into class with a buddy reduces the feeling of isolation. Once they are confident when interacting with their partners, they will find it simpler to extend their network.

Assign a Partner
How to Help a Child Cope with Social Anxiety at School (for Teachers): Assign a Partner

FAQs

Parents and teachers have shared concerns about social anxiety in children, including the effective treatment and the likelihood of children outgrowing this condition. Let’s address those frequently asked questions.

1. What is the best therapy for social anxiety in young learners?

The best therapy for social anxiety in children and teenagers is Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT), helping young learners develop essential skills for managing social situations and addressing both cognitive and behavioural aspects of anxiety.

CBT is a psychological treatment for depression and anxiety disorders, focusing on these strategies:

  • Identifying and fixing distortions in thinking that contribute to problems.
  • Improving understanding of others’ behaviours and motivations.
  • Applying problem-solving skills to handle difficult situations.
  • Building confidence.

CBT sessions can be conducted one-on-one or in groups. CBT therapists guide socially anxious children through structured sessions to identify and modify their thoughts and behaviours, ensuring gradual improvement.

2. At what age does social anxiety start?

Social anxiety disorder generally starts in childhood or early adolescence, before the age of 20. Children fear making mistakes or behaving in ways that could lead to embarrassment or negative judgment from others. Many children hide their feelings during this period, making it harder for adults to notice.

Some people struggle with social anxiety in later life, often after a particular event, like being bullied or relocating. These events impact a person’s sense of security and confidence.

In both cases, the trauma can cause social anxiety, which may persist without appropriate intervention.

3. Do children grow out of social anxiety?

It depends. While some children may outgrow social anxiety as they mature, others carry it into adulthood. Children who experience this issue before age 12 are less likely to overcome it on their own.

Social anxiety may lessen over time as children age and develop their coping mechanisms. They may gain the necessary skills and knowledge to become more comfortable in social situations.

On the other hand, many children with social anxiety do not outgrow their problems without treatment, which will affect their relationships and well-being. Some even require ongoing intervention to manage symptoms effectively.

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UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.

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