Read to find out the 5 ways you can reduce your social anxiety around your kids
Growing up, my family and I only went on vacation once to the beach (we lived in Canada).
From what I remember, we spent most of the time at the pool. So I only got a little practice building sand castles. However, it seems a pretty straightforward process.
While living in Florida, I bought my son a set of beach toys when he learned how to walk. I wanted him to dig in the sand and build his Elsa castle.
I should have known better. He immediately asked ME to sit with him and build it out. I just assumed he would manage and figure it out on his own.
Alas, that was not the case.
I found myself sitting next to him on the sand with a shovel and a rake in my hands trying to figure out how to build a sandcastle. I willingly put myself in this position (instead of sending my husband over) so that I could spend some quality time with my son.
We were on vacation, after all, and I felt terrible taking care of his baby sister the whole time.
I thought, “This is my chance! I’m going to sit down and play with him“. Except, it never dawned on me that I didn’t know how to play with the sand. Is that even a THING?
See, I sat in front of a row of lounge chairs filled with people staring at me. Well, they were probably staring at the ocean, but it felt like everyone was judging my incompetence. I felt so silly.
That’s when I realized I’m a mom with social anxiety. It’s been building up since my son was born five years ago.
I’ve been in enough situations that give me social anxiety, so why would this one be any different? Usually, I know exactly when and how Social Anxiety strikes, so I prepare for it in advance. But with a kid, I never know when it will hit me.
And lately, it’s been hitting me hard in all types of places.
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When my son deals with conflict, I have to intervene, especially when he’s the one initiating it. I have to smooth things over with someone else’s kid. I never know if I’m reacting correctly (or not responding, for that matter because, let’s face it, I’d instead not intervene) and what the other parent thinks of my kid and me.
Honestly, the playground gives me the most anxiety because I can’t control anything that happens there. I find myself in situations where I have to talk to a parent because they’re near me, or I have to respond to a babbling toddler.
If I could, I’d never set foot on a playground.
I know it’s a natural thing to do, and I’m grateful I can provide my baby with the food and comfort that she seeks, but man, do I cringe every time I sit down and lift my shirt up. I have this constant worry in the back of my mind that someone is going to say something.
And while I’m prepared for the confrontation and to stand my ground for my right to breastfeed, it’s honestly the last thing I want to do.
I know I’m going to get flustered, and my baby will pull away, exposing my breast, and then everything will implode.
He’s at that age where everything is a fight. Everything is no. He screams his little head off in the middle of the street or hits us because we pick him up and walk away.
Or even WORSE, he uses a curse word (let’s not get into that one!). A whole scene unfolds, and everyone is just staring. I know it’s nothing to be embarrassed about because every parent goes through this, but it’s the most unpleasant feeling when I don’t know how to calm my son down and have his eyes on my back. It makes me judge my parenting skills because I know everyone else around me is.
I hate facing the stares of the people in the “oh, they’re so not raising him right” camp. They make me question my every move.
The scary part is that I have no idea how long it will last. Will it dissipate or strengthen when my children are teenagers? What kind of anxiety-inducing situations will I face then?
I can’t even begin to imagine.
But what I do know is that I’m not alone in feeling this way. And while I haven’t exactly found a way to get rid of the social anxiety in the context of motherhood, I’m doing a few things to alleviate the sting of it.
Keep your focus steady on your child. Be in the present moment so your thoughts don’t wander into worry territory. Keep your focus line straight when a conflict arises because your kid chucked sand into someone’s hair.
Please focus on what you can do for him right now.
That takes your gaze away from passersby and your mind away from what they could be possibly thinking about you (not that it ever matters), and it puts all your attention on this little being that needs you. Please respond to him first and look at the situation instead of looking around to see who’s judging you.
Have a focus so you don’t fuel your social anxiety.
I can’t tell you how often social anxiety caught me off guard because I didn’t prepare beforehand. Now that I know it will come for me (in whatever shape or form), I have a game plan.
Here’s an example of how to prepare for the playground.
First, EXPECT Social Anxiety to visit you. You know you’ll feel socially anxious at some point or another, so prepare yourself for the hit.
Then, follow and closely monitor what’s happening to prevent things. If you notice a conflict brewing, cut it short by removing your kid from the play area for a heart-to-heart. The goal is not to end up doing damage control.
A game plan is your best friend if you’re a mom with social anxiety.
I know it’s easier said than done, but bring your partner or family member with you if you can. At the store, the playground, parent-teacher meetings, etc.
If you’re anxious, let them handle the situation for you.
I’ve repeatedly pushed my husband into the bull’s pen to rectify a problem. Being the ideal extrovert that LOVES confrontation, he doesn’t mind dealing with other parents. Or with our son’s antics in front of everyone.
Not only does this help at the moment, but it will help you take a step back and see how someone else is dealing with a particular situation. And honestly, you’ll probably step in as the momma bear to help the situation. Funny how that works, huh?
I know precisely what triggers my anxiety the most, so I’m now one step ahead of it.
Figured out how to manage your child’s emotions and behavior (positively) so that you reduce the number of times you’re running around putting out fires.
For example, if you know your kid is tired or hungry, you probably won’t push him to the playground or take him to the store. Chances are that he’s going to have a breakdown.
This means you’ll probably have one too. It takes time to identify the triggers, so have patience with yourself. Once you know them, you’ll be able to put them in their place and avoid them.
Lastly, could you remind yourself that you can handle ANYTHING?
Whether that’s another parent trying to chit-chat, or someone reprimanding your child in front of you, know that whatever it is, you’ll get through it at the end of the day. And that this moment is so fleeting that you’ll forget about it tomorrow when the next one hits.
It helps to remember that nothing is permanent and that there are good and bad days. Like every mom, you’re doing your best.
My personality type seems to clash with my son’s, making it much more difficult for me to handle the situations he finds himself in.
I’m learning every day how to raise him better.
I’m more aware now than ever of what I need to do for him to grow confidently. I know that I’ll find myself in less than extraordinary situations where I have to face my demons on top of his (and who knows what my daughter will do to me when she’s old enough), but as long as I’m kind to myself about how I handle it, I’ll be ok.
And you’ll be ok too, I promise.
Feel free to contact me, and we can talk about how much fun we’re having!
I’m sharing my personal experience of having social anxiety around my kids and what I’m doing to manage it better.
Here are the 5 things to help you if you’re a mom with social anxiety:
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I went from being scared to ask a question out loud to hosting summits online. I love coffee, french crepes, and working from home. My mission? Help others build their social confidence to make friends, have conversations, and be comfortable around people!
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