Social anxiety is not an ailment that is gender or age specific. There can be social anxiety in toddlers as well. Children worry. This is natural. What should cause a parent to have concerns is when a child is constantly worrying, or if their fears and anxieties put a stop to everyday life.
Don’t make a child feel bad about not feeling good. This does not mean reward their behavior. Let them know that it is ok for them to express themselves and that people feel anxious or down at times. Toddlers are impressionable. Shaming them for feeling nervous or scared can have lasting results.
Don’t avoid something just because it will make a child feel anxious. Avoiding what they fear may cure the problem short term. However, if a child associates crying with feeling better or having their fears go away, then they will cry all of the time to placate themselves.
Don’t set your child up to have false expectations. Having your child think that things bad will never happen will not solve their problem with anxiety. You should not promise them that they won’t fail a test or won’t be laughed at. However, you can tell them that even if it happens, it will be ok.
Let your child know that it is ok to be fearful of things but also show them that their emotions should not rule them. If they are afraid of something that is legitimate to fear, point out that it is in fact something that they should be afraid of.
Think things through with your child. If they are able to express themselves, ask them why they feel the way that they do. Try to explain to them that they will not be harmed or hurt because of whatever it is that triggers their anxiety. Show your child that you take care of your wellbeing and theirs as well.
Model proper behavior. If your child sees you anxious or reactionary to things, they will learn that this is normal and acceptable and how people react to stressful situations. By practicing relaxation methods and handling your own stresses, you are teaching your child how to handle their own stress and how to relax.
If your child is having separation anxiety, practice separating with them. Play games with clocks and time alone. Always say goodbye and reassure them that you will be back. Try to give them a benchmark that they can look forward to (after lunch, at the end of school). Since toddlers cannot tell time, being able to gauge how long you are gone by their daily events might be helpful.
If your child is afraid of the dark, show them that you will always protect them and keep them safe. Make their room cozy. You can even have fun and make a game with anti-monster items or a sign. Also, having a nightlight will help ease their mind.
Proper management of childhood anxiety will help a child learn how to cope with stresses as an adult. Remind them that at the end of the day, everything will be o.k.