New Cognitive Methods to Solve Social Anxiety in Children
Children with social anxiety are more liked by peers and
become popular according to a study done by Macquarie University. The
observations were made by Prof Jennie Hudson, Director for the Centre for
Emotional Health (CEH). A study was done on 586 school children aged seven to
13 by Hudson's team collaborating with Dutch academics which unexpectedly
discovered the more intense school children’s social anxiety, the more their
peers liked them compared to students with less social anxiety.
Social anxious people have several positive qualities such as caring, sensitivity and eagerness to please.These are appealing qualities in a friend.Children with social anxiety could suffer from nausea, sleeplessness, trembling and stomach aches. They also keep off from social situations fearing negative outcomes. They also are shy before adults or in class, don't take part in discusisons. The insight about social anxiety in children has helped Hudson's team develp a new cognitive behaviour approach that encourges participants to change their thoughts, feelings and behaviour in face-to-face sessions and online mldules.
“We encourage children to try and be more realistic and not mind-read other people’s thoughts,” she says. “Instead we get them to be detectives and collect the evidence to shift their thinking themselves.”
Parents and teachers can play a supportive role empowering young people to solve their own problems. “If a child feels they did badly in a presentation, then you can say: ‘Well let’s look at it. Where are the facts? What do we know about the situation?’ – instead of just reassuring them.”
“For example, if a child is worried that if they act silly in front of others then they won’t be liked, we get them to deliberately do something silly. It could be wearing socks to school that don’t match or singing Happy Birthday loudly to a friend in the playground. Most of the time no one even notices.” The Centre for Emotional Health is also trying to work with teachers to ensure that students with social anxiety don’t slide under the radar.
“Often the kids with social anxiety are the quiet ones in the classroom and are difficult to detect. They're shy and never put up their hand,” Hudson says. “They’ll rarely ask for help.”
She stresses that early intervention is vital to assist these children and have a positive impact across their lifespan. “If you have anxiety as a child, you’re much more likely to have anxiety as an adolescent and then as an adult, and develop a range of other mental health issues such as depression or substance abuse.”