Teens and Social Anxiety: What to Do When Fear Paralyzes Their Life

Anxiety and your teen may be well acquainted. Social anxiety, in particular, among teens, is becoming more and more prevalent.

Mostly, it’s that the condition is more easily recognizable and acknowledged as a disorder rather than a simple choice. For this reason, parents have more options when it comes to treating it.

As a parent, it’s only natural to want your teen to thrive in all areas of life. Yet, dealing with social anxiety is often a huge hurdle to clear.

Furthermore, it’s not something a teen (or any person) can simply overcome on a whim. Overcoming social anxiety often takes a deliberate team effort.

Here are a few ways to help your teen struggling with social anxiety.

Show Them Acceptance

Teens are especially susceptible to feelings of rejection. Even the slightest remark or behavior can have a lasting effect on them, discouraging their social development.

Teens and social anxiety: A teenager needs to know without a doubt that their parents accept them as they are.

To help them battle social anxiety, don’t try to change them or downplay their feelings. A teenager needs to know without a doubt that their parents accept them as they are.

This doesn’t mean that you are okay with them struggling with social anxiety for the rest of their lives. And it certainly doesn’t mean you accept how social anxiety might have paralyzed them.

However, it does mean that it’s critical for you to show them love and acceptance despite the difficulties they may be facing.

Even when you don’t quite understand why a situation is a big deal to them, try to respect that it is truly a big deal to them. Of course, this is part of being an empathetic parent but it can be tough at times.

Provide Confidence-Building Situations

Although you might be tempted to avoid social situations because they cause anxiety for your teen, don’t do it. The key to overcoming social anxiety and building confidence is gradually exposing your teen to social situations.

This might mean encouraging your teen to order for themselves at a restaurant or talking with a sales clerk about an item they want.

These little moments help to increase their confidence in social situations. Each interaction might just be a few minutes, but it can have a lasting impact.

Also, reward them for making the effort to step outside their comfort zone. This isn’t always easy to do for a teen struggling with social anxiety. So, make sure they know that you noticed.

Set Realistic Goals

It’s not uncommon for some teens to resort to all or nothing thinking. They might believe that since they feel anxious joining the basketball team that they simply can’t be a part of any social activity.

To help your teen push through this mindset, encourage them to set a social goal for the future. If the school basketball team is too much anxiety for them, perhaps there is something else they’d enjoy instead.

The goal is to get them socially involved enough that motivates growth but at the same time keeps intense anxiety at bay.

Be There to Listen and Offer Advice

Addressing any type of anxiety can be discouraging and often emotionally draining. This sort of ebb and flow isn’t always dictated by age, either.

On the one hand, there will be good days where your teen makes leaps and bounds. On the other hand, there will be days when your teen seems to regress back into the grasp of social anxiety.

As a parent, do what you can to be your teen’s safe place. If your teen feels comfortable enough talking with you about their feelings, make the effort to truly listen to them. When they ask for your advice, give it to them without judgment.

You might not always understand exactly where they’re coming from, but practice empathy and compassion when they open up to you.

Next Steps to Help Your Teen With Social Anxiety

If your teen is struggling with social anxiety and you are finding it difficult to help them overcome it, please reach out for guidance today. Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX, has experienced therapists that specialize in teen counseling and anxiety. Call us today at 832-323-2355 or book an appointment online. Together, we can explore ways to support your struggling teen and help them thrive.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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