Anxiety Defined: How Anxiety Can Shape Your Child’s Social Life

For many of us, meeting new people, being vulnerable and taking risks in relationships can be challenging or even scary. For children living with anxiety, it can be downright paralyzing.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by worry and fear that are constant, overwhelming and even crippling. They can cause distress that is so extreme that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. As a result, an anxiety disorder can have a significant effect on your child’s social life and relationship building. Here’s how.

Making Friends

Anxiety and Friendship

Image Credit: Jordan Whitt

Facing fears in social situations can be extremely difficult for children living with anxiety. This reality can make it difficult for them to make new friends. A fear of rejection can be crippling and they might choose to remain isolated rather than taking social risks.

You can help your child overcome these barriers by listening to their concerns, planning play dates in non-intimidating atmospheres and even offering to role play scenarios so that they can practice stepping out of their relational comfort zone.

Participating in Activities

In the same way that a fear of rejection can prevent your child from entering new friendships, a fear of failure might discourage them from participating in activities or extracurriculars. Unfortunately, this is a place that many children do make friendships and learn to interact with their peers. Therefore, try finding smaller group activities that can help your child feel safe. Or, encourage them to tell you about some extracurricular activities that they’d really like to try—this excitement might help to curb some of their fears.

Succeeding in School

Anxiety and Relationships

Image Credit: F Romero

The social aspects of school can be difficult for children living with anxiety. They might be afraid of what their peers think of them, making group projects or participating in class difficult. Another relationship that is important to not overlook is a child-teacher relationship. It’s important for a child to feel comfortable reaching out to their teacher when they have a question or require support. This is true from grade school all the way through university, so addressing an anxious child’s fear of teachers early is important.

Try speaking with your child’s teachers to see what kind of special accommodations can be made for your child. They are there to invest in your child’s education and are likely more than happy to help out.

Building Family Relationships

Some of the most significant relationships we build are with family members. At times, anxiety can cause communication to be strained as a result of nervousness, fear and irritability, all of which can be a burden on family relationships. Helping your entire family understand anxiety and creating strategies where you can all support each other can go a long way in helping a child with anxiety build positive family relationships. This in turn, can make a difference in their relationships outside of the home as well.

It’s important to remember that anxiety is a medical condition that can be treated with a combination of patience, understanding and support from a qualified professional. Understanding some of the difficulties that social anxiety can cause in your child’s life will help you to work together and alleviate these issues as much as possible. An early diagnosis can help minimize long-term effects.

Feature Image: Annie Spratt