EXPERT Q&A

How can I help my anxious child try new activities?

For parents, it’s difficult to see your children feel anxious when trying new things and meeting new people. Here’s some guidance to help your child through their anxiety so they can start feeling comfortable in different situations.

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Question

My daughter has pretty severe social anxiety, and because of this, change of any kind can be extra difficult. Starting a new school year, trying a new sport, or being around new people–these all become extremely stressful for her How do I encourage my daughter to try new things while helping her feel comfortable in new situations?

Answer

Being anxious about new situations is very normal for kids and I know it’s so hard as a parent to feel your child’s anxieties on top of your own! And COVID-19 certainly didn’t help with this. Here are some suggestions for how to help ease your daughter’s anxieties, especially around new situations.

  • Do practice runs for any new situation. Before the first day of school, go to the school about a week earlier and let your daughter do a practice run of drop off. Reach out to her teacher and ask if there’s a time you can come by and see the classroom (if there’s not already something like that). Before the practice run, sit down with your daughter and write down a list of questions or concerns she has. Try to get as many of those answered before you go anywhere new!
  • As you learn more about what is making her feel anxious, try to help mitigate those anxieties. As much as you can make changes that address her concerns. For example, if she doesn’t like people singing to her at her birthday (and I know many people who loathe this tradition), instead have party guests write down one thing they love about her instead of singing to her. Or, if she doesn’t like the feel of sunscreen lotion while she’s playing soccer, use the quick dry spray kind instead. Any change that shows her that you hear her concerns is helpful.
  • If she’s meeting someone new, let your daughter set boundaries around any phyical touch. This helps teach consent and bodily autonomy. Make sure that her comfort is a higher priority than the other person’s. This lets her know you have her back!
  • Show her how you practice your bravery muscles. When you try something new or you’re feeling anxious but do it anyway, talk with her about your experience. Allow her to ask questions.
  • Teach her grounding exercises for when she starts to feel overwhelmed. This is a great one to start with: The 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Technique for Children

The most important aspect of helping her is that she knows you’re on her team. You offer her the safe harbor and she will sail free when she feels ready. The fact that you’re asking this question shows that you care deeply and that’s very important! We’re here for you!

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Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!