For most kids, going back to school is an exciting and fun time, but for some, it is nothing but dreadful. Even if a child isn’t experiencing bullying or academic trouble, the social factor of public education can be downright daunting for students who have social anxiety. This is especially true for high school students.
Teens with social anxiety are usually very reluctant to go to school in the morning and are always looking for ways to avoid both small and large group social situations. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include a fast heart rate, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, dizziness, stomach pain and crying. Most kids with social anxiety also suffer from low self-esteem and have an irrational fear of being watched and judged by others.
If you believe your child is experiencing back-to-school anxiety, you should ask them to open up about their feelings and fears. Anxiety comes in many forms and shouldn’t be ignored. Some children may just need a quick pep talk before school while others may need to seek professional counseling for their fears.
Although social anxiety is a phobia that takes time to conquer, parents can help their children cope with their fears by using the following four tips.
- Teach relaxation techniques: Techniques include deep breathing, positive visualization and meditation. In addition to these proximate techniques that can be used at the onset of anxious feelings, encourage your child to also do some form of exercise every day. Exercise is great for your overall health, but it is especially good for reducing anxiety and stress.
- Help them hone a talent: To help with self-esteem, encourage your teenager to focus on their strengths. Whether it is a subject in school, an artistic or athletic ability or something else, children understand their individual value better when they realize and perfect their unique talents.
- Be their support, not their crutch: Kids with social anxiety often turn to their parents for comfort and reassurance. Many children with social phobia spend most of their time at home after school, because being at home with mom and dad provides a blanket of comfort for them. While this may seem like easy parenting (a child at home is a child protected from trouble), it is not healthy behavior, especially for a teenager. Encourage your teenager to tackle their phobias by spending more time with their friends or participating in an after school activity. If they showcase any concerns, tell them that you know they will enjoy doing something different.
- Encourage part-time work: If your teenager is old enough to work, encourage them to go get an after school, part-time job. A job will teach them how to meet new people and how to work in a team. They will also learn about responsibility, business and customer service and become exposed to real-world situations that may help them realize the irrationality of their fears.
As stated before, social anxiety is not a phobia that can be fixed overnight. For some people, it can take years to overcome their fears. However, parents can guide their teens down the path to an anxiety-free life by recognizing the problem and implementing techniques that dissolve their phobias.