Social anxiety isn't as simple as just being shy; it can be emotionally and academically paralyzing, even for children. The author writes about her daughter's struggle and victory over this debilitating problem.
Description: The article deals with the issue of kids that are shy or have social anxiety, and contains a very personal story about this issue. I am a co-author with Jenne R. Henderson, Ph.D. of the new book, BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory's Easy, A Story About Social Anxiety. I feel that the issue of shy or socially anxious children does not get addressed often enough in the schools and at home.
They're quiet, don't get into trouble, and can become invisible if you let them. They don't want to participate in activities, go to school, or even birthday parties.
Daughter's Struggle with Social Anxiety
This was my daughter. Life was more of a challenge for her. The everyday tasks of interacting with peers, and talking in class were overwhelming and sometimes painful. Changes in routine, or new situations were especially difficult.
There were several times over the years that she had begged me to home school her. I knew if I went down that route, it would be the point of no return for her to feel independent. For her, home schooling would have been giving up. It would have been easy to let her slide by through life as the invisible child... the most difficult thing in the world was to not let her.
When, by fifth grade, things did not get better, I realized that if I wanted my daughter to have a chance at life, I needed to get her some help. Also, as a parent, I needed to learn how I could help her through those difficult moments. This was the turning point for my daughter, to decide to get help, instead of just letting time slide by.
Treatment for Extreme Shyness and Social Anxiety
I took her to see a psychologist. It was Jenne R. Henderson, Ph.D. who helped my daughter finally start understanding about the anxiety she was experiencing. She helped her to not feel quite so 'frozen' in fear about experiences and issues that would come up in her life. My daughter learned that it takes her more time than others to get used to new things, that it's just a part of who she is, and now that she knows that about herself she can plan for it, so she can be successful at anything she might encounter.
She also learned that being prepared ahead of time could help alleviate her anxiety, and also that exposure to those situations, although uncomfortable, would help. It was the start of the long process of her growing and learning about the way she is, and what she needs to do to help herself through her feelings.
When my daughter was younger, I purchased many books about social anxiety and shy children, although could never find a school-age book that would help her to understand someone else going through the same feelings. I wanted a story-based book on the issue that would be engaging and entertaining, something that would be memorable. I could not find that book. When mentioning this to Dr. Henderson, years later, she suggested we write one.
The message of being prepared ahead of time echoed throughout the years of the learning process about social anxiety. The book BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory's Easy, A Story About Social Anxiety, was written to include that message in the format of an entertaining chapter book. The title and message of the book uses a memorable acronym, BRAVE, which stands for 'be ready and victory's easy' because with social anxiety it helps to not only be ready but also to be brave.
It worked for my daughter. She ended up taking advanced courses in high school, was a cheerleader, and had a part in the high school musical. She is now enrolled at a large university, and I look back over the years at all the turning points and think... what if I didn't keep trying? She has told me over and over that she is glad that I never gave up.
My husband and I are constantly amazed at how far she has come. It was so important throughout the years for us to never give up, and take it a step at a time. We see that so clearly now, even though it was so difficult at the time.
It would have been so easy to let her stay invisible.
Marjie Braun Knudsen is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the co-author with Jenne R. Henderson, Ph.D., of BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory's Easy, A Story About Social Anxiety (Summertime Press. 2008). Henderson is a licensed psychologist in Portland specializing in childhood anxiety and depression for over 15 years.