Keys to Helping Socially Anxious Teenagers (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

How can parents help to manage social anxiety in their children?

  1. Reward Brave, Nonanxious Behavior: Provide praise and attention and small rewards.
  2. Prevent Avoidance: Refuse to engage in your child's behaviors that allow him/her to avoid the situations s/he fears. For example, refrain from ordering your child's food, speaking for your child in stores, making phone calls for your child, or taking care of other things that your child is avoiding due to social anxiety. Gradually encourage your child to handle social tasks on his/her own to foster more independence and confidence.
  3. Prompt Your Child to Cope Constructively: Encourage your child to come up with his/her own solutions, Help your child to brainstorm ways to handle the anxiety and to independently decide how to cope more constructively. Prompt your child to use the cognitive and behavioral skills being learned in treatment.
  4. Limit Reassurance: Anxious children will constantly ask for reassurance that things will turn out okay or that they will be alright. This prevents them from learning how to cope with anxiety on their own and maintains the belief that they are unable to do so.
  5. Help Your Child to Use a Problem Solving Approach:
    • 1) Summarize what your child has said,
    • 2) Help your child brainstorm possible ways in which the anxiety may be reduced,
    • 3) Make sure not to take over the task for your child or tell him/her what to do,
    • 4) Go through each idea that the child has generated and ask questions such as, "What do you think would happen if you did this? Do you think that would help to reduce your anxiety in the long-run? What would be the worst that would happen? What is the likelihood that it would happen?"
    • 5) Praise your child for discussing possible solutions and outcomes,
    • 6) Prompt your child to select the strategy that allows him/her to approach feared situations rather than avoid them and is most likely to have a positive outcome.
References and Related Books

Report of the Surgeon General on Mental Health

Worried No More: Help and Hope for Anxious Children by Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D. Lighthouse Press, Inc. 2002

Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by Ronald Rapee, Ph.D., Susan H. Spence, Ph.D., Vanessa Cobham, Ph.D. and Ann Wignall M.Psych. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2000

Keys to Parenting Your Anxious Child by Katharine Manassis M.D. Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 1996

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About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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