social anxiety - getting out the door - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 08-05-2010, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi. This is my first post to mothering.com, though I've lurked off and on for years. My now 5 3/4 year old was diagnosed around age 5 with anxiety disorder NOS. It seems mostly social to me (or at least he's functional in other areas).

Our biggest struggle is getting him out the door to go to school, or in the case this summer, camp. We've tried 2 different camps this summer because he needs to be engaged ALL.THE.TIME and sitting around the house all day does not work for him or us. (He exhibits ADHD-like symptoms as well.) I'm pretty sure his lack of social skills is what makes him want to avoid camp.

I'm looking for advice about what we can do to a) help him overcome fears long enough to get himself engaged somewhere, and b) have positive social experiences. The poor kid has had such bad experiences both at school and with neighborhood kids that I think he just feels inept and has no confidence. Normally I would be in the "he'll figure it out on his own" camp, but not with his personality.

We have been seeing a therapist for a while now about his aggressive behaviors, discipline issues, etc. (He is quite the onion of issues!) Now that those are better, I just left a message for her to make an appointment to switch focus to social stuff. In the meantime, if anyone has advice, I am ALL ears!
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#2 of 9 Old 08-06-2010, 08:27 PM
 
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I have little to no experience in dealing with this when it comes to kids. I just saw that no one has replied yet, and I have severe anxiety and social anxiety, so I thought I'd chime it.

To get me out the door smoothly (and this all started when I was a kid myself). I need to know what I'm freaking out about, and then do what ever I can in advance to prepare myself for it/or avoid it depending on what the problem is.

I'm an emetaphobic, so when I leave the house I like to have my accupressure bands with me, a ginger ale, some anti-emetics, and a trash can in the car. Knowing I have that stuff gives me the confidence to get out and do what I need to do.

When I was a kid I might have tried to avoid school because my homework wasn't done, or because I was afraid it wasn't done "good enough". So having my mom check it over would have been a huge help before leaving. That or knowing that a teacher wouldn't call on me unless I wanted them to would have been a HUGE help with my anxiety.

Sometimes I was embarrassed about my lunch. Sometimes about my clothes. And sometimes I was being picked on at school and never told anybody, so I obviously had tons of anxiety before leaving the house every morning. Or I was afraid of getting called on in class. A social skills class would have been great for me and my anxiety as a kid.

So maybe if you can find out what the exact fears are, then you could be proactive in helping lessen his anxiety? Otherwise the only thing that's helped me is to just suffer through things until I get better about them (even if it took years and years). But that's probably not a great thing for a mom to hear.

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#3 of 9 Old 08-06-2010, 09:09 PM
 
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I also don't have any experience with a socially anxious child, but I had pretty bad social anxiety in the past (cognitive behavioral therapy worked wonders for me, don't know how early you can start that though). But I'm trying to picture what would have helped me as a child with those issues...so here's my suggestions...
have a very strict routine to follow to get out the door. i know that having a routine while in college helped me get out the door- now, actually staying in class, that's a different story. but i'm thinking if he's following the steps to this routine, it might curb the anxiety until he gets to camp. then to address the anxiety at that step, i would make sure you don't drop him off early or late- just exactly on time. when you have social anxiety, it sucks to get somewhere early and just be standing around awkwardly. at the same time, it sucks to get there late and have everyone look at you when you walk in.
is there a camp he could go to where most of the kids were of a different age than him? or had some other sort of difference. for me, personally, it was easier to remain calm when i was around "different" people, i assume because i felt like i didn't have to try to fit in because everyone was aware of the obvious difference. for example, i am white and speak english, so walking through mainly hispanic neighborhoods was much easier for me than walking through mainly white neighborhoods.
i hope others have better suggestions for you!! i feel for your little guy!
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#4 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 02:54 AM
 
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social skills class.

The one my DD went to was offered through a center for autism, but was open to non-autistic kids who needed the class as well (ADD, for example). I'd start asking around.

Not only did they teach social skills in a step by step way, building each week on what was learned the week before, but the kids practiced with each other, some were able to make friends in the class, they played games, they ate a snack, etc. It was a WONDERFUL experience for her and demistified the whole social thing.

When he starts getting upset, the best thing to do is deep, mindful breathing.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#5 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 05:10 AM
 
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Just wanted to say that I dont have exact issues like that with my children. but i do have a child that has social issues.
She was diagnosed with aspergers when she was 4, and now, at 8, has an added diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
She has genuine fears, that make it hard for her to do things. She struggles to go places, because she is terrified about being kidnapped. She is terrified when i leave, because she thinks i will be killed. She has other obsessions, that dont make any sense to me, but they are very real to her. Forcing her to do the things that she is afraid of, will not help her. It will make her anxiety shoot thru the roof.
I know with her, for the last couple years, she needs to know exactly waht to expect and when. We have kind of a check list, to help us do the things that need to be done in a timely manner.
She doesnt go to school, because she is homeschooled, but she has anxiety about park day. I guess i am lucky that i can have her sit with me at the park, if she is feeling anxious, and i dont have to leave her there.

I am guessing this doesnt help much, but I wanted to let you know you are not alone. Many kids have social issues, and fears, and it is hard for many people to understand. There is a lot of research on Cognitive behavior therapy, and it seems to really help. we will be starting this in a week or so with my daughter, along with exposure and response prevention. We are hoping to avoid medicating her, but she is losing her battle with OCD right now, and we are thinking medication might be needed, at least for a short term, so she can quiet her fears long enough to take back control of her mind.

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#6 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 11:46 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
social skills class.
The one my DD went to was offered through a center for autism, but was open to non-autistic kids who needed the class as well (ADD, for example). I'd start asking around.

Not only did they teach social skills in a step by step way, building each week on what was learned the week before, but the kids practiced with each other, some were able to make friends in the class, they played games, they ate a snack, etc. It was a WONDERFUL experience for her and demistified the whole social thing.

When he starts getting upset, the best thing to do is deep, mindful breathing.
This is huge. There are often even summer camp built specifically around social skills. It sounds like that would be a really safe place for your son to develop skills and self confidence.

 
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#7 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 12:35 PM
 
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I have a dd1 who has anxious tendencies and we've been dealing with them since birth. She doesn't carry anxiety/worry around with her, but when confronted with certain situations almost has a panic attack kind of reaction. She's got very big feelings.

Anyway, what has helped us most is easing into new situations. Like if I wanted her to go to a camp at that age, I would first make sure she also had a friend at the camp and then we'd drive by the place where it was going to be before hand. I wouldn't try for an all day camp, but would just go for something 1/2 day. I'd probably stay for awhile on the first day, then I might sit in the car for awhile, so she could feel like I was nearby. I'd be sure to talk to the camp counselors/director about dd1's anxieties, too.

How is your ds's friendship situation? Does he have anyone he's particularly close to, or is he just casually friendly with kids in his class? I'd foster some close friendships. I'd invite 1 kid over and supervise closely if he's had agression issues. My dd1 loved to go over to other kids' houses (see what toys they have, etc) as long as I was there.

Anyway, having at least one good friend has made all the difference in the world for dd1 in situations like school. I just sometimes had to put myself out there with the other parents and ask for playdates. There's just something about seeing another kid outside of school at home (park is okay, but not as good), either their home or yours that really, really helps. It carries over into school/camp and they begin to feel a little more "in" because they've been to Billy's house or Billy's been to their house rather than "out" because everybody else seems to be such good friends and it's so easy for them. That's the number one thing that helped us for sure and other than that, just taking it really slowly.

You probably know this about anxiety, but in general it's a tightrope. If you completely avoid the anxiety-producing situation that makes it much worse in the future, but if you throw 'em in there anyway—sink or swim—that makes it so much worse. You have to ease in baby step by baby step.

That's actually the main reason we're ended up at the small private school our dds go to. Dd1 would have happily stayed home with me for the rest of her life an never ever done big bad scary awful school. We really considered homeschooling, but I think it would have made her anxiety worse not better. On the other hand, public school would have been way too overwhelming and I had no desire to do anything to make her more afraid or feel worse about school, so we ended up paying $$ for school just because it was the best fit for her.

hth

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#8 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 06:34 PM
 
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Also, cognitive behavoiral therapy, which is a form of talk therapy.

There are books on anxiety which go through all the basic stuff of how to deal with it, but for my DD, sitting down and talking to her therapist about different techniques and what happened during her week, what worked and what didn't, and what she could try differently next time was very, very, very helpful.

The bad news is that for most kids, this gets worse during puberty. If you are already having issues with it during childhood, don't wait for them to outgrow it because that most likely will not happen.

One of the best things I've done for my DD is admit to myself that I cannot do everything for her and enlist the help was specially trained adults to help her.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#9 of 9 Old 08-09-2010, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to all for the advice.
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