The holidays are a wonderful time of year full of family, friends, and fun – there are memories to be made and traditions to be passed down! But for many kids, the holidays can also be a time of increased social anxiety; family parties, school functions and social outings can all increase nerves in an already anxious child.
If your child is feeling anxious about holiday parties and gatherings, here are three tips to help ease their anxiety and make the holidays fun for everyone!
1. Talk openly and honestly about their worries ahead of time
When our kids are able to communicate openly with us about the big fears and feelings they are having, they feel safe, supported and it becomes easier to create strategies to help them.
A few days before the event or gathering, sit down with your child and talk about how they are feeling and what they can expect on that day. Discuss who will be there, what activities will be taking place, and how long the event will last. Answering any questions ahead of time can help ease anxiety by giving your child a sense of security.
2. Create a social script & read social stories
A social script is a short, simple description of a situation that can help kids understand and predict social interactions. These hypothetical situations help kids understand, visualize and plan for what may happen during a holiday event.
For example, if your child is anxious about meeting new people at a holiday party, you might create a social script that goes something like this: “When you meet someone new, you can say ‘Hello, my name is___.’ Then shake their hand.” Social scripts can be helpful in teaching kids what to say and do in potentially anxiety-provoking situations.
A social story is a short story that describes a particular situation, the feelings that may come along with that situation and how to appropriately behave. These stories have characters your child can relate to and provide a plan for them when in a similar situation.
3. Practice role-playing different scenarios
If your child is worried about what they should say or do in certain situations, role-playing can help them feel more prepared and confident.
Similar to social scripts, role playing various scenarios will help them feel comfortable and confident, therefore easing some of that worry and anxiety.
You can act out different scenarios together, such as arriving at a holiday party or meeting new people. Brainstorming possible situations specific to your family and holiday ahead of time can be so helpful!
4. Encourage positive self-talk
When we model positive, encouraging behavior and language, our kids are more likely to do the same!
It’s important to encourage your child to talk kindly to themselves when they’re feeling anxious. Help them come up with some positive affirmations – “I am brave”, “I am safe” “I know my plan”, “I can do this” etc. – that they can repeat to themselves when they’re feeling anxious over the holidays. Remind them that everyone gets nervous sometimes and that it’s okay to feel scared. Encouraging positive self-talk will help your child build confidence and manage their anxiety in a healthy way.
5. Make sure your child has a support system
If your child knows they have someone, or several people, they can count on to help them if they start to feel anxious and nervous, their ability to manage these big feelings will be easier!
If you have family or friends who also manage anxiety, arrange a time for all of you to chat. Partner with a family member or friend that will be attending the same holiday function and let your child know that they are also a safe person to go to if they start to feel anxious.
Sometimes simply knowing that they are not alone and have support around them can make all the difference for an anxious child.
6. Seek professional help if necessary
If you feel you’ve tried various strategies to help your child manage their anxiety but they are still feeling these overwhelming feelings, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating children with social anxiety disorder.
Our social workers at Beyond Speech utilize a variety of strategies to help kids better understand and manage big feelings, such as anxiety. If you’d like more information about our Social Work services, reach out to us! We’d love to support you and your child!
The holidays are so much fun and every child deserves to enjoy them! If this time of year creates worry and anxiety for your child, take some time to talk openly about how they are feeling and what to expect ahead of time, create a social script or social story, have a support system in place and always encourage positive self-talk.
This bit of holiday preparation can help ease your child’s holiday anxiety and make the season enjoyable for everyone involved!