Social anxiety

Some children get big feelings around meeting new people, trying new activities or even being somewhere new. These worries are real, and they need your support to manage them.


It’s not that I don’t want to try new things. Sometimes I get excited thinking about learning something new. Then the worries start.

What if I’m not very good? It’s scary to participate in something you’re not good at. What if people laugh and make fun of you?

What if they stop being your friend? So many ways this could go wrong!


Does this sound like your child?


What is social anxiety?

Kids who struggle with worries can find new situations, meeting new people or trying new things very stressful.
It might not make sense to you, but it is a very real worry for them.

Unpredictable situations present plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong!

How do I know if my child is struggling with social anxiety?

Signs of social anxiety:
☻  Very nervous participating with new groups, new activities or new situations.
☻  Refuse to make eye contact when they meet someone.
☻  Worried they are being watched or judged when they are in a group.
☻  Clingy when approaching a new situation.Low self esteem.

How can I help my child overcome social anxiety?

☻ Practice bendy thinking. Instead of thinking of the worst thing that could happen, think about a positive thing that could happen (you might really like soccer, and be good at it!) check out the video on change to learn more about bendy thinking.
☻ Take some time to observe the situation before joining. Some kids need a couple of minutes to assess the situation before jumping into an activity.
☻ Practice opportunities to gain confidence. Be a good role model and show them the positives that can come out of meeting new people or trying something new.
☻ Prepare for a situation where you think your child might struggle. Go over the activity, who will be there and how the situation will unfold.

Watch this video on social anxiety

Gulliver is so afraid of the storm that’s coming that he can’t even enjoy game night with his family.

Things to remember:

☻ Stay calm and consistent. Assure your child they are safe.
☻ Validate how your child is feeling.
☻ Acknowledge your child is having a hard time.
☻ Engage your child in finding solutions to help them manage their worries.

Sometimes feelings involved with social anxiety get so big that big feelings turn into meltdowns, explosive emotions or even an angry outburst. This is your child telling you they are having trouble coping. Check out the resources in the Big Feelings strategy library for more information on dealing with change.

Recognize your feelings! Validate their feelings and work together!
Working together is key!

Creating a Plan

  • Creating a plan helps you and your child work together to manage big feelings in the future.
  • Print off the plan on the kids page << It’s OK to Fall >> and come up with a plan together.
  • Take the plan with you ( print off or on your phone) so you can remember what you need to do when emotions start to rise. Don’t forget to bring Poppy for some extra support!

You can use this plan to explain to family, friends or care givers how you and your child are working together to overcome big feelings. Use it to communicate to your child’s school or family doctor too!

Things to remember when building a plan:

  • Address the problem. Validate their feelings. Tell them how you are feeling about the situation.
  • Get creative. Listen to their suggestions.
  • Print off the plan and post it or take it with you so everyone remembers what they need to do.
  • What are the important things to remember? The key parts of the plan?
  • Determine the tough point. When does it get difficult? What are we going to do when that happens?
  • Yes to success! Maybe next time? What do we need to different, or do we just need practice. Even the best plans need practice sometimes!

The Plan (example)

Working together to:

Participate in Gymnastics

What happened?

Prep- what will today look like:

  • talk about the upcoming gymnastics class
  • discuss any worries
  • talk about strategies to overcome worrie
  • stalk up how fun it is to learn a new skill
  • point out areas where you think they will be good at gymnastics

Going to Gymnastics

How did I react

Parent- what will be my role in this plan:

  • stay calm and be supportive
  • review the plan and strategies you have discussed (we will go to class early so you can watch, I will connect with the teacher, I will stay in the building, if you get concerned, you can step out and watch for a while)
  • will stay to the end

March 18. 2024

What can I do instead?

Child- What will my role be in this plan:

  • get ready for gymnastics class
  • let family know how you are feeling
  • stand by the class until ready to participate
  • try
  • step out of activity and let adult know if the big feelings are coming
  • stay until the end of class

Look for opportunities to practice problem-solving in everyday life with your child so you are ready to use those skills when they are faced with a challenge.

Now It’s your turn!

  • Don’t forget to collaborate with your child and validate their feelings
  • Go to the kids page and help your child work through the activities in the Emmet library #9 – It’s OK to Fall.
This is your chance to work with your child to come up with a plan for next time. Work through the activities on this kids page together. They have been designed to help you start a conversation. Come up with a plan that works for everyone.

The important thing is you are trying and you’re working together.