Thursday, March 11, 2010

Children with Social Phobia

How Do Nannies and Au Pairs Help Children with Social Phobia?

In the March 2010 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed common childhood fears and more serious anxiety disorders that require physician care.

Social phobia is an intense fear of becoming humiliated or embarrassed in social situations. Children who suffer from social phobia might appear to be excessively shy. But, social phobia is different from being shy. People with shyness can be uneasy around others, but they don’t necessarily avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable.

Common fears of children with social phobia are fears of going to social situations such as parties, fears of talking with authority figures such as teacher or a principal, or fears of speaking to others in public.

Other less common fears may involve fears of using a public restroom, fears of eating out, or talking on the phone, or fears of writing on the blackboard in front of other peers.

Have you cared for a child with social phobia? What is your advice for helping children who suffer from this anxiety?


Anonymous said...

I worked with a kid treated for selective mutism and social phobia. Selective mutism is a social phobia. They affect each other. Parents/Dr taught us to teach the child alternative ways of viewing situations. List worst case scenario then best scenario and outcome will always be somewhere in between or best outcome. We did relaxation. Breathe really slowly in and out. Picture belly a balloon as breathe in. Have them write down worries and then talk about them.

Nanny Felicia Taylor
Moorestown NJ

Anonymous said...

The teachers at preschool told me that the boy I nanny for doesn't parallel-play, instead he does what's called observant play. He just watches other children. No social interaction with other kids at all. He will play solo, though, and he'll play with the teachers. Never with or near other kids.On the playground he just freezes. No crying. Not acting scared. Just wants to be alone. At home he does have warm, vibrant relationships with me, his parents, and grandparents. It's not that he has a congenital lack of ability to form close relationships. The teachers spoke with the mother once about it (she never told me) and preschool teacher thinks I should look in and see how he acts in school. Preschool teacher thinkgs it may be anxiety / social phobia might need therapy.

lovebeingananny said...

To anonymous above: I work as a nanny but used to be a director of a preschool. When discussing this with the parents you must prepare ahead of time and do so very delicately. You are not a professional in anxiety disorders, child psychology or a therapist (I assume). Share your concerns but don't "label" him as of yet.

Does he play with other kids outside of school with cousins or playdates with neighbors? How does he react in those play situations? Preschool is the time to start making playdates with other classmates and see how it goes,

It is not unusal for kids not play with other kids at first and to need to carry a teddy bear to feel secure. There are no test for being shy. But professionals can determine whether shy or anxiety. I don't think you are qualified to know whether it's shyness or anxiety disorder.

I think you should give him exposure to smaller groupa so he can become more comfortable playing with other kids.

Try to socialize him more with you present so he feels secure. He may do better in a small class setting until he is used to all of the kids. It's great that you are concerned but I wouldn't "label" him quite yet. Sharing concerns with parents is great. But let the parents and professionals do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

I think anonymous is doing everything right. Not freaking out, staying calm, just sharing info with parents, does not sound like she is judging. The boy could have autism, Aspergers, just be shy...we can't know. I think preschool is right to share info too. Whenever a child seems "different" best to tell parents so they can get help that is needed. My best advice is always remain calm and sensitive. I think it's odd nanny didn't mention how kid plays with other children in his home. Time to make playdates and see how they go.

Maria Lopez
Miami FL

Anonymous said...

I was one of those shy kids in elementary school. I didn't like going to school because it meant spending time around all these other children who weren't at all shy. I had to learn how to act with my teacher. I felt like an outsider looking in. As an adult I am now treated for anxiety. It is debilitiating. It is terrible getting butterflies (or have to constantly run to the bathroom) before going to school. The single most useful thing you can do to help a shy child develop social skills is to be relaxed about it. It's not a race. Most children go through shy phases and some are just naturally introverted. But, extreme shyness (and axiety) is debilitating and a concerned nanny and concerned parents should not just ignore it.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know about child shyness first hand. And I also know what can happen when this shyness is not properly dealt with: it can turn into extreme shyness which can develop into social phobia. And *that* may take years to get rid of, as it was in my case.

Shyness is insecurity. For that reason, parents need to be very careful with judging and especially criticizing. Scolding, ridiculing, and shaming your child for being shy are big no-no's. It will only reinforce their belief that they are incapable, and therefore need to stay away from interaction with others.

Another important thing is to check are your attitude & reactions to the child's shyness. Are you frustrated and displeased? Well, your frustration needs to be dealt with. At the very least, it needs to be under control.

First of all, accept the fact that each child has a different personality, and do not think them in any way "inferior" to others because of it. Never allow yourself to say things like, "All other kids went and played, but you had to sit in the corner.". This implies that "other kids" are better, and you would rather be their nanny.

Children want to be loved and naturally want to please their parents and caregivers. Not many things are harder for a child than thinking that their parents do not love them because they are not good enough. "Oh, but it does not mean that I don't love them!.." Well, that's how most children take it and often carry through life. So instead of showing displeasure, try to offer some reassurance and build up the child's confidence. "I am so proud of you. I know you don't like being in the spotlight, and yet you were brave enough to recite the poem!" You will have to do it over and over again. Confidence-building takes time, and consistency.

Hurt or humiliated once, the child will go to extreme lengths to avoid the situation in the future.

Plus thy must practice at being social and then they will not get better at it.

This requires you to keep careful balance between not pushing the child to do what they are not comfortable with, and yet helping them to stretch their comfort zone and learn social interaction.


Anonymous said...

I just think this is so out of the realm of a nanny's duties! Are you guys nuts? I am a live-in making $400 per week. No way I'm going to be cleaning nevertheless worrying about this. This is the parents' responsibilities. If you are hired knowing that you will be working with special needs than you should be paid extra for that. Most nannies and aupairs I know are way underpaid. Leave the parenting to the parents!!

Lisa said...

I disagree with the previous poster. The overall well-being of the child is our duty as caregivers. And a child could suffer more by our choosing to ignore what they are going through. Plus, their behavior while in our care could be adversely impacted too.

A lot of the advice and tips on how to help children deal with anxieties, phobias, fears, emotions, grief, etc. is not rocket science but rather common sense once you take a little time to read it combined with compassion. This IS what being a nanny is about.

YES, I DO KNOW what I am talking about because for $400 a week a few years ago I was doing this stuff as part of my crisis nanny jobs. Sometimes the job is not about us, but the children.

Tobago Nanny said...

I am annoyed about $400 per week nanny too. I mean anyone with any common sense is caring enough to want to help a child. It doesn't matter if you make under minimum wage, if you accept to do the job all you have to do is do it to your best ability. Seems unethical to think because you only make $400 per week you shouldn't be an advocate for ANY child. If the job is too complicated for you find antoher job in a less important job.