9 Tips for Guiding Kids With Social Anxiety to Success

As the bus taking my daughter to her first high school retreat pulled out of the parking lot, I saw her silhouette through the tinted window. Everyone else in the girls’ section of the bus was paired up. She sat alone.

I wanted to cry. I would’ve chased the bus down the street and snatched her off, if I hadn’t been surrounded by other parents. I said my good-byes, went to my car, and cried.

Nothing hurts more than seeing my kid struggling to fit in socially. As mom emotions go, it’s one of the worst. It’s a terrible, awful, no good, very bad feeling. As much as I’d like to spare my kids the pain of an uncomfortable situation, I know that’s not always best for them.

With the start of a new school year, I’m probably not the only mom who’s worried about my kids who struggle socially. Maybe you’re concerned, too.

Some kids breeze through parties and new circumstances while others struggle or are anxious in social situations. If you’ve never struggled, you may not understand.

I understand social anxiety well because I struggled socially as a kid. Maybe you did, too. In those days there was no such thing as “social anxiety.” It existed. We just didn’t call it that. We used different words to describe kids who struggled socially: shy, weird, stuck up. And those kids just went about life as best they could.

It’s hard watching your child struggle. Here are effective ways to help kids cope with social anxiety:

1. Empathize

It’s comforting to know that someone recognizes and cares about what you’re going through.

2. Put Fear into Perspective

Sometimes kids realize their fears are irrational but feel powerless to do anything about them. Remind kids it’s normal to be uncomfortable in a new situation.

3. Encourage Participation

As a mom, we want to keep them safe within the walls of their comfort zone. Heck, I’d like to stay in that zone myself. But, as much as I want to protect them, I have to encourage (and allow) them to participate.

4.  Find a Friend

Teach them how to create their own one-on-one situation. When she walks into a new situation, tell her to scan the room and look for someone who’s standing or sitting alone. Approach that person and engage in conversation.

5. Confidence-Building Activities

Activities are a great way to overcome social anxiety, especially theater. Theater may seem like a big leap, but it’s a huge confidence builder.  On stage, you’re scripted. You don’t have to think of something to say. When they become more comfortable on stage, you can then help them translate those skills into real life.

6. Teach Social Skills

Knowing what to do in social situations builds confidence. Teach social skills, including manners and conversation skills.

7. Practice

Provide safe situations to practice skills without fear or intimidation. Teach how to handle awkward situations with grace, which will build confidence.

8.  Praise

When she takes the big step and attends a social function, invites friends over, or conjures up the courage to join a groups of kids at lunch, praise her. Use language that gives her an awareness of what she did and how it made her feel. If she felt good, she’s likely to want to repeat the behavior. If things don’t turn out so well, tell her you’re thankful she was confident enough to approach the situation and handle it with grace.

9. Infuse Faith

Prayer always helps (for the both of us). At times when kids doubt they can do something, remind them of God’s promises like the one in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

It’s heartbreaking to watch kids struggle to fit in. But, as parents, our job is to help our kids develop into confident adults. Unfortunately, I’ll have to suffer that terrible, awful, no good, very bad feeling to help my kids grow. I’ve got to resist the urge to coddle and give them the skills necessary to succeed.

And to do that, a little struggling is necessary.

How do you help your child cope with social anxiety? How do you cope with it yourself?

9 Tips for Guiding Kids With Social Anxiety to Success 1




This post originally appeared on SheilaQualls.com in March 2015.

14 thoughts on “9 Tips for Guiding Kids With Social Anxiety to Success”

  1. Sheila,

    Start of school years in our family has always been a struggle. You have wise words I could have used back when my kids were starting a new year.

    Just letting you know I nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award over at http://www.embracingtheunexpected.com/blogger-recognition-award/

    Please do not feel obligated to do a thing. You are one of my favorite writers, and I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to let others know about your website.



  2. Awe, bless her. Prayers for her and you this afternoon. ((Hug)) My youngest is in high school and he struggles similarly. He’s finally making some progress socially, but it’s still uncomfortable for him. I pray the Lord brings someone along for your daughter who she can find community with. ((Hug))

  3. Sheila, I am one of those people who when I was growing up people called me odd, stuck up and so on. Even as an adult I have felt the sting of those words. It is so easy to get into a comfortable, not scary place and just stay there, but that is not what God wants us to do. I have had to push myself out of that box and even now as I’ve gotten older and anxiety has become a friend, I have to push even harder. It is worth it however. I like that you brought up the theater. I love to act. I haven’t really had many opportunities, but when I did, I always felt so calm, once I got on the stage. Weird how that works. Ha, ha. Thanks for sharing your insights. – Amy

  4. This is a helpful post Sheila. My eldest is starting nursery school so this post was thought-provoking and encouraging to read.

  5. This is a helpful post Sheila. My eldest is starting nursery school so this post was thought-provoking and encouraging to read.

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