Am I Responsible for My Child’s Social Anxiety?

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Good Question

Just for a change, I’m going to try to answer a reader question today. I’ll get back to helping you with your Social Anxiety gremlins next time, but one of my readers asked,

“I suffer from Social Anxiety and I’m worried I might be passing my anxiety on to my children. It that something that can happen?”

There’s not really a simple ‘catch-all’ answer. So, I’ll answer the question as best I can.

Social Anxiety is a condition, where studies have shown that it can be a factor in whether your child(ren) suffers.

In most studies though, it’s considered more of a predictor, than a cause. A 2011 studyParental and Peer Predictors of Social Anxiety in Youth, by Candice C. Festa and Golda S. Ginsburg, found that…


…results generally indicated that higher levels of parental anxiety, rejection, and overcontrol were related to higher levels of social anxiety. Higher levels of social support, acceptance, and validation were associated with lower levels social anxiety.

One bit of the study that stood out to me was that…

…Parental overcontrol (also referred to as overprotection) is a specific parenting behavior associated with elevated levels of social anxiety in youth.

Overprotection is something that many parents struggle with, and not just those that are Social Anxiety sufferers.

I’ve spoken to many parents over the years. Most of them say the same thing. Their child’s anxiety was caused by something the child suffered in their own life. eg:

  • •   a death in the family,
  • •   a bad experience when confronted by a spiteful child.
  • •   some traumatic event that they had no control over, etc.

Being anxious yourself needen’t be a problem?

Many of a Child’s ‘values’ and much of their belief system, comes form you. But you can mitigate against many things, by being supportive of the things they want to try and by letting them make their own mistakes (as long as there’s no chance of injury, etc.).

There are also lots of ways you can reassure your child(ren):

  • •   Explain to them what social anxiety is, and how you deal with it.
  • •   You can teach them breathing tecniques, and explain they help reduce stress.
  • •   Let them see you dealing with stressful issues, and winning.
  • •   Be supportive of the things they do. Be their personal cheerleader!
  • •   Give them the freedom to try new things, even if those things scare you 🙂

So, to sum up

stay free imageThere are some parental factors that’re  associated with with higher levels of child social anxiety. For example,  parental anxiety, (generalized anxiety disorder or social phobia), parental rejection, such as parents being very critical of their child, or if the child ‘believes’ that a parent is being overprotective.

But, there are also many parental and peer factors associated with lower levels of child social anxiety. For example, perceived emotional support and if they believe they ‘fit in’. It’s also helpful if the child has an encouraging best friend who makes them happy.

If you’re the type of person who’s interested in the science behind the ‘Parent/Child’ discussion, I’ve listed some research you might be interested to read.

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