Teens and Social Anxiety Disorder: What You Need to Know

Teens and Social Anxiety Disorder

Teens who deal with social anxiety disorder often have a tough time fitting in at school or in group settings.

These kids can have difficulty making friends or even being around other people their own age. Social anxiety disorder can lead to feelings of sadness, isolation, and depression.

As a parent, it can be difficult to see your child deal with this issue. While you should seek help from a mental health professional, you can do some additional things each day to help your teen cope with their social anxiety disorder. Here are some ways you can help your child deal with social anxiety disorder.

Avoid the Need to Overprotect

Teens who deal with social anxiety disorder have the tendency to remain close to home and avoid social situations.

As a parent, you may feel the need to feed into this behavior to ensure your child remains as safe and as happy as possible. However, you could be doing your child a disservice. Teens must learn how to cope with their peers, even when dealing with social anxiety disorder. Instead of avoiding social situations, start to gently encourage your child to seek out some opportunities to be more social.

This exercise can begin slowly. Allow your teenager to order their own food at a restaurant, for instance. This small step can help your teen develop the confidence they need to eventually become more social and more independent.

However, you can go overboard. If you feel your teen is not able to handle being dropped off at the movie theater with peers without experiencing some anxiety, delay that activity until they are ready. You should work with your child’s therapist to create easy and safe goals on your child’s timetable.

Set Goals

Speaking of goals, you and your teen should work together to come up with a set of goals to help overcome social anxiety.

These goals do not have to be major, but they should be significant enough to help your child develop the necessary social skills they need to function in life.

For instance, you may encourage your child to set a goal to join a club at school by sitting in on one of their meetings. They could set a goal to make a new friend or walk to a neighbor’s house to invite a friend to your home. Small steps into regular social interaction help your child to eventually develop confidence in their social life.

Manage Stress

A teen who deals with social anxiety disorder naturally has stressors and tendencies to become anxious.

For that reason, you as the parent can take steps to help your child relax and unwind. Encourage your child to partake in activities they enjoy to help ease stress. Some examples may include writing in a journal, drawing, or spending time outdoors.

Be a Sounding Board

The teenage years can be difficult. As a parent, you want to be able to fix whatever is harming your child.

In many ways, being there to listen to your teen is the best way you can help your child when dealing with social anxiety disorder.

As your child speaks, let them know that feelings of nervousness around others can be normal for many people. Help encourage your teen by reminding them how they dealt with other anxious situations. Be there to answer questions or offer advice. Above all, instill confidence in your teen so they can begin to better manage the anxiety.

Teenage anxiety is hard.

Adding a social component to the mix can make a teen feel like they do not belong. If your teenage child is dealing with social anxiety disorder, please contact us at Anxiety Institute for help and advice.

About the Author

Headshot: Daniel Villiers, Ph.D.
Dr. Dan brings over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families in a range of clinical and educational settings.
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