Here’s how to help a child with social anxiety survive the holidays

‘Kids who struggle with aspects of development including sensory processing and ADHD are more likely to also suffer from anxiety,’ says expert

This joyous time of the year can be a source of stress — especially for people who experience social anxiety. For kids who experience anxiety, it can be even tougher.

However, Dr. Rebeca Jackson, VP of programming and outcomes for Brain Balance, says that this time of year doesn’t have to be so stressful and offers a few tips and tricks to help ease holiday stress for your children.

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“While there are natural points in development that anxiety peaks as kids become more aware of strangers and the realities of the world, anyone can struggle at any age. Kids who struggle with aspects of development including sensory processing and ADHD are more likely to also suffer from anxiety as well,” Dr. Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If you think your child is anxious or stressed, here are a few cues to look for:

  • Trying to avoid an activity or outing, even if it involves people or activities they enjoy.
  • A flare up in negative behaviors. Their stress levels seem to be increasing, but they may not be able to identify or communicate why.
  • Asking a lot of questions about the event or repeating the same question over and over.
  • Decline in health, especially an increase in stomach pains or headaches.

“Increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, making decisions or planning, more emotional and reactive. These same behaviors apply to your kids too. Another clue to watch for in kids is change — a change in their mood or behavior,” said Dr. Jackson.

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Here are a few tips to help a child with social anxiety and stress:

  • Sleep: A well rested brain is better equipped to face life’s stressors.
  • Exercise: Physical activity to the point of going breathless helps to engage neurotransmitters and pathways in the brain that can increase feelings of happiness and well-being.
  • Sensory input: A little sensory input can help calm and ground the body.
  • Nutrition: The brain has a harder time controlling emotions when it runs out of fuel.
  • Explain: Let your child know what to expect from the event, and reassure them you will be there with them, or will be there to pick them up.

“As parents, it is important to keep in mind that stress and anxiety are real and just because you don’t feel that way in a situation doesn’t make it any less real to your child,” said Dr. Jackson.