How Parents Can Help Teenagers with Social Anxiety Disorder

In our recent post on social anxiety disorder in adolescents, we provided an overview of symptoms and research-based treatment options. This week, we will focus on the ways parents can support socially anxious teenagers.

How Parents Can Help

Parenting a teenager with social anxiety presents a particular challenge, as teens, unlike younger children, may face additional struggles in establishing independence and personal identity.

Fortunately, there are several ways that parents can provide direct and meaningful guidance without restricting their children’s autonomy. Below are a few suggestions from professor and researcher Dr. Carrie Masia.

Parents of adolescents with social anxiety can reinforce their children’s assertive and social behavior by responding positively whenever it occurs. Conversely, parents can discourage negative and avoidant behaviors by letting their children handle tasks they generally find daunting, such as making phone calls or conversing with salespeople, and by curbing excessive emotional reassurance that may prevent children from generating their own solutions.

However, parents should still play an active role in helping their teenage children create reliable problem-solving strategies for social situations. For example, when approached by their children with a concern related to anxiety, parents might summarize the issue, encourage constructive coping, troubleshoot a few options — while letting their child remain in control — and ask questions that prompt their child to think through possible scenarios.

These tactics will help socially anxious teenagers develop their own coping skills and feelings of competence, also known as self-efficacy. Moreover, the impact of parental support can be strengthened by skills developed in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions (see our last post for more information about this treatment).

Transferring Progress at Home to the School

In our next post, we will will cover how school administrators and educators can ensure that students with social anxiety disorder make long-term gains, and how a joint effort between parents and schools can help adolescents apply coping skills learned in other settings to the school environment. Don’t miss it!

An Overview of Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents: Part One

An Overview of Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents: Part Three