Post-Pandemic Reentry Social Anxiety for Kids or Teens

Post-Pandemic Reentry Social Anxiety for Kids or Teens

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives, and our children and teens have not been immune to its effects. After a year of social distancing and remote learning, reentry into the "normal" world can be a daunting prospect, especially for kids and teens who are already prone to social anxiety in today’s technologically dependent world.

Social anxiety is a common and normal experience for many children and teens. It is characterized by feelings of nervousness, self-consciousness, and fear of judgment in social situations. Some thoughts that may reinforce these feelings could sound like:

  • “What if I’m awkward and everyone makes fun of me?”  
  • “What if I ask to hang out and they say no?”
  • “How do I even start a conversation without it being weird?
  • “I’m better off just being alone where I’m comfortable.”

The pandemic has only amplified these feelings, as kids and teens have had limited opportunities to interact with others and build social skills. The sudden change in social norms and expectations can be overwhelming and make it difficult for kids and teens to adjust.
Reentry into the "normal" world presents several challenges for kids and teens with social anxiety. For example, returning to school or extracurricular activities after a year of remote learning may be difficult for some. They may feel nervous about seeing their peers and teachers again, or worry about how they will perform in a new and unfamiliar setting. They may also feel pressure to catch up with their peers who have had more opportunities to socialize during the pandemic.
Parents and guardians can help their children and teens navigate this transition by acknowledging their feelings and offering support. Here are some tips to help ease the reentry process:

  1. Encourage open communication: Encourage your child or teen to talk about their feelings and concerns. Listen to what they have to say and validate their experiences.
  2. Prepare together: Talk to your child or teen about what to expect when they return to school or extracurricular activities. Practice social skills and role-play potential scenarios together.
  3. Gradual reentry: Start small and work up to larger social situations. Encourage your child or teen to attend a small gathering with close friends before returning to a large social event.
  4. Focus on positive experiences: Remind your child or teen of positive experiences they have had in social situations in the past and encourage them to focus on these experiences as they navigate their reentry.
  5. Therapy: If your child or teen continues to struggle with social anxiety, therapists will not only be able to provide specific interventions for your child but they will also be able to practice  social skills in real time and help them build confidence in-session to improve in other settings.

Our team of therapists are available to help your child build confidence and overcome social anxiety.

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Nate DeSantana, MS

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