All of us feel nervous or anxious in some social situations. Before speaking in front of a group, it is only normal for your heart to pound faster, and you may also feel butterflies in your stomach. And although many of us get similar anxiety-related symptoms, we can still somehow manage to get on with our activities. For some individuals, this may not be the case because even common social situations can already cause extreme anxiety.
Our bodies actually respond to fear through a fight-flight mechanism. A perceived fear can trigger the rush of adrenaline and chemicals, which are essential in preparing the body to either face the situation, or to make an escape. And although this mechanism serves to protect us from danger, some people may find that it’s not helping them at all.
While some kids are comfortable at speaking in public or performing in front of an audience, there are others who may not even be able to speak to other people. They have this intense fear of being judged, embarrassed, and criticized, which keeps them from doing many activities.
When social anxiety already gets in the way of a person’s life, it may no longer be typical shyness anymore, but a condition called social phobia or social anxiety disorder. For people with social phobia, their response to the fight-flight mechanism can be so strong and more frequent, that it may already do more harm than good.
Social anxiety disorder can affect both kids and adults alike, but many of the cases only begin during the teenage years. If you notice that your child has poor social skills that are already getting in the way of his activities, it may be wise if you investigate further. Social phobia can make a child miss out plenty of opportunities in school in terms of learning, forming friendships, and developing skills or talents.
With its great impact in a child’s life, we need to examine whether we are preparing our kids for the many changes and challenges ahead. Although a person’s genetic make-up can put him at risk for developing social phobia, factors like learned behaviors and life events also play a role.
Children will always look up to their parents, and if an already shy child is overprotected to a fault, he may not learn how to deal with unfamiliar situations and new people. If parents also set an example by avoiding socialization, a child may also follow suit. Negative experiences can also put a child at risk for developing social phobia. Children, who are being bullied or ridiculed in school, may be prone to social anxiety disorder.
Although it may be difficult to undo a child’s past experiences, social phobia can be treated with the right therapy, together with a strong support system. A therapist may focus on building effective coping strategies, practicing new behavior, and building confidence. The family and friends of an individual are also essential for his eventual recovery.
It is important for parents to understand that the road to recovery may take time, and a child may need a lot of love and encouragement, so he can slowly deal with his anxiety. As parents, it is only natural that we try to protect our child from the harsh realities of life. However, we also need to give them a chance to learn essential life skills, so that they can get the most out of what life has in store for them.