CHILDREN OVERCOME SOCIAL FEARS
is social phobia and how do I know if my child is currently experiencing
can parents do to assist children in expanding their social circle?
1.) Make Time for Friends: Be sure that the child's schedule is not booked so heavily that there is not any time for friends. Some families schedule children in so many "organized activities", such as many different sports or dance classes that there is not enough time for children to have downtime and unstructured playtime with others. Be sure that your child has some free time to be able to schedule fun times with new friends.
2.) Encourage Play Dates: Encourage your child to set up "play dates" with other kids. Before your child leaves school for the summer vacation, encourage him or her to get a list of all their classmates' phone numbers. You might give your child a special address book or special small notebook where their classmates can sign in their name and phone number. During those summer days when there are no activities scheduled, your child can refer back to the list of school friends' numbers to invite a friend over to play.
3.) Role Play Simple Social Situations with Your Child as Practice: Some kids refuse to get on the phone due to fears that they will not know what to say. Role play situations with your child. For example, a child could be taught to say, "It would be great if you could come over to my house sometime next week! Do you want to get together for hanging out, playing, going swimming, or having dinner one night at my house?"
4.) Normalize Natural Fears: Let your child know that it is perfectly normal to feel a little hesitant about speaking for the first time to new people. Also, it is natural to feel nervous about giving an oral report to the class, or talking with someone on the phone. This anxiety is normal, and it will go away the more that the child practices the situations that they are most anxious about.
5.) Dealing with Overnights/Sleepovers: Typically, at around age 7 or 8, many children enjoy sleepovers as a special activity with friends. However, some kids report feeling afraid of going to others' homes for sleepovers. Some may feel this way due to social fears or due to fears of separating from a caregiver. You might start to help kids feel more comfortable by encouraging sleepovers at a relative's house, such as a similar aged cousin, or at a grandparent's house. Children should be encouraged to talk about their specific fears about sleepovers so that parents can help them deal with each of these fears directly. Also, parents might encourage their child to invite kids to their house first for a sleepover so that the child can become used to the activity.
6.) Encourage Your Child to Develop a Hobby: Sports, dance, boy/girl scouts, and other clubs are excellent places for children to meet other children with similar interests. Engage your child in a discussion of his or her interests and help your child join a club to develop a hobby, such as dance, art, model building, karate, etc..
7.) Host a Get-Together: Host a neighborhood cookout, host a playgroup with moms, dads, and children, join a parent/child music group, etc. All of these ideas are ways to help children practice being around other children and other adults.
8.) Praise Children's Successes in Social Situations: Tell your child how proud you are of their specific successes. Let them know that you enjoy watching them have so much fun with friends. Praise their successes in trying new things, such as making a phone call to order food for the first time, or ordering for themselves in a restaurant for the first time. Tell children exactly what you like about their behavior, and you will likely see this behavior increase.
9.) Help Children Learn the Skill of Relaxation: Often, when children have a skill to help them relax before entering a feared situation, they are better able to enter that situation and are less likely to avoid it. The creators of the Child Anxiety Network have developed a relaxation CD for children to help them learn the skill of progressive muscle relaxation using positive imagery. Using this CD, children can learn to relax themselves in numerous situations that cause them fear.
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