Ways You Can Help a Teen Who Is Experiencing Social Anxiety
Why you can trust Lightfully Behavioral Health?

Lightfully’s professional culture is designed to keep everyone connected, motivated and nutured. Why is this so important? We believe the way we treat our employees is how we show up for clients – through encouragement, honesty, and compassion.

Clinically Reviewed 
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Developing strong and healthy friendships can help improve the overall quality of a person’s life in many ways. Friends can provide new experiences, support during hard times and a sense of belonging. While many teens feel like they would be lost without their best friends, others have difficulty finding people to bond with.

Teens are at the time in their life when they’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. However, it can be a lonely journey for teens who have anxiety that prevents them from making friends. 

Social anxiety goes beyond being shy or introverted. It’s a diagnosable mental health disorder that can lead to overwhelming nerves and worry out of fear of being judged, ridiculed or embarrassed during social situations. It can cause sweating, shaking or trouble speaking.

Social anxiety can interfere with a teen’s ability to develop the skills they need to form meaningful connections in the future. That’s why it’s important to know what you can do to help a teen who’s struggling with it. We’ll walk you through different ways that you can help a teen soothe their social anxiety.

Be an active listener

Parents can be supportive and effective listeners for teens with anxiety even if they haven’t personally struggled with anxiety themselves. It’s OK that you can’t relate as long as you take the steps to understand and be empathetic. It’s important to stay open minded.

Active listening means being attentive to what your teen is saying by being fully present in the conversation and trying to understand them, not just think of what you’re going to say next.

Ask about their feelings without asking about their anxiety. Asking, “Why are you feeling anxious?” can sound accusatory and invalidate their feelings. But asking a teen, “How are you feeling?” shows them that you care about their well-being and that you want to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

Actively listen when they’re discussing their feelings without interrupting or inserting your own opinion. By giving them your undivided attention as they open up, you’re helping them feel supported while giving them a safe space to be honest about their struggles.

Help them step out of their comfort zone

Avoidance shouldn’t be encouraged. When you ask a teen with social anxiety if they want to say hello to some people or come with you to a social event, they’re likely to say no. While avoiding a social situation can eliminate the opportunity to feel uneasy, it can perpetuate negative behavioral patterns. Instead, provide small opportunities for them to face potentially triggering situations, such as making a phone call.

You can reframe their thoughts by asking questions like, “What’s something good that could come out of this?” By helping them readjust their perspective, you’re helping them see what they can gain from confronting their anxiety.

Also, distractions can go a long way. When you recognize signs of a teen’s anxiety, such as fidgeting or avoiding eye contact, offer a way to get their mind off the current situation with activities like going for a walk or playing a game. Plus, laughter can have an immediate positive effect on their nerves. Tell them a joke as a way to loosen the tight grip that anxiety can put on their mind.

Show interest in your teen’s passions

Social anxiety can cause a teen to think many negative thoughts that often stem from low self-esteem. They can feel like a burden to others, like they’re making people uncomfortable with their demeanor or like they’re not interesting enough compared to others.

By being genuine and engaging with a teen with social anxiety, you’re showing that you want them around and that they’re deserving of attention. Starting out with a compliment can go a long way in boosting their confidence and alleviating their nerves. 

A teen with social anxiety may feel like they don’t fit into the current conversation or that they have nothing in common with those around them. By asking them about their passions, and showing interest in them, you may make them feel more comfortable opening up. People feel more at ease when they’re in a space that allows them to be themselves and discuss what’s important to them.

Recommend treatment through Lightfully Teen

When you notice your teen’s social anxiety symptoms persisting or worsening, then it’s time to talk to them about the benefits of seeking professional help. If they’re having anxiety attacks, or completely isolating from others, then our whole-person-centered care can help. 

Our levels of care, such as the Intensive Outpatient Program, can help teens understand their social anxiety from every angle and develop the tools they need to manage it in the future.

Change is possible. When your teen is ready to take the first step toward alleviating their social anxiety, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

Connect with Admissions

Do I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Related Content