REALITY CHECK: Did you know that social phobia usually starts during adolescence — about 40% prior to ten years of age? Four out of ten socially anxious children even beg or refuse to go to school. If left untreated severe social anxiety can seriously impact a child’s social and academic development and increase the risk of substance abuse and even depression.
For most kids knowing school is starting up is plain thrilling. Seeing friends, riding on the bus, a new teacher,or even a spanking-new backpack are all things they look forward to.
But for some back-to-school is far from the term exciting. Experiences such as new teachers, bus rides, playgrounds and cafeterias can bring on feelings that range from pangs of jittery to darn-right terror.
Danny, a fifth grader, is one of those kids who worries. Giving speeches, bus stop terrors, and lunchtime woes are just part of his concerns. But when his usual coping strategies don’t work, disaster strikes. What will he do?
Danny shares so many of the typical worries of kids with social anxiety. The good news is that Danny is a character in a wonderful book entitled BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory’s Easy: A Story About Social Anxiety by Marjie Braun Knudsen and Jenne R. Henderson. It may be the perfect choice to read to your child in these next weeks to help temper any back to school worries.
Best yet Danny learns to manage his fears of social situations by using the acronym BRAVE that his Grandpa suggested which stands for:
I loved the book and cheered the ending. The character and his circumstances will appeal to kids of a wide variety of ages. BRAVE is also an excellent resource for parents, counselors, therapists and teachers alike. I highly recommend it.
Bibliotherapy, or using books to heal, is a proven counseling technique. Counselors find the right literature selection that addresses the child’s concern and then reads it to or with the child to help them through difficult times. The theme becomes the tool to start talking about the child’s worry and how to deal with it and the child often feels less alone and more hopeful: another kid feels the same way!
If you’re concerned about your child’s anxiety, know that you are not alone. Anxiety is the number one mental health challenge that faces our kids today. Fortunately there are resources such as the excellent one Braun Knudsen and Henderson provide. The good news is that anxiety disorders are also the most treatable mental health condition. With the powerful cognitive-behavioral treatments now available, there has never been more hope for anxious children’s bright future.
One of the best that offers cutting-edge techniques is written by Tamar E. Chansky, one of the leading experts in the world on children’s anxiety. Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries and Phobias. Learning Chansky’s lessons from parents, children can reduce anxiety and even prevent anxiety disorders from taking hold.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF POSSIBLE SOCIAL ANXIETY IN CHILDREN
There is no one sign that indicates that a child has social anxiety, but here are common signs to watch for:
- crying, throwing tantrums, clinging & freezing
- poor or limited eye contact
- frequent claims of illness so as to avoid going to school or refuses to go to school
- experiencing severe anxiety about exams
- appearing very anxious when the centre of attention
- unwillingness to participate in class activities
- devoting an excessive amount of time to video or computer games
- constantly alone in the playground, always on the edge of groups, doesn’t join in, has few or no friends, rejected frequently by peers
- spends a lot of time alone in their room
If these signs describe your child, then please get help! Call a trained mental health professional who can help you develop a plan to reduce those worries and learn to be BRAVE (just like Danny) with research-driven coping skills. You’ll find more solutions for reducing worries in my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.
Get more Parenting Solutions by following Michele Borba @MicheleBorba on Twitter or at her website: Michele Borba Her complete reference for raising 3 to 13 years olds: The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Jossey-Bass) is on sale now!