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  5. Social Anxiety - is it possible at 3 years? Family history

Social Anxiety - is it possible at 3 years? Family history Rss

I am wondering if it possible to have social anxiety at 3 years of age? My husband has been diagnosed with social anxiety and depression, and I have heard that social anxiety could be genetic.
My 3 year old is becoming increasingly shy/anxious whenever she is given attention by anyone other than my husband, myself and her elder sister - I am wondering if this is just a normal shy little girl or if I should have her checked out by a paediatrician to see if it is something more?
Some examples - we go out for a casual early dinner about once a month with another married couple and our girls come along. She is still shy and will not talk to them at all and is the same with pretty much anyone else we know.
She sees her grandparents at least once a week and has done so since birth, and still every time we arrive and they say hello she drops to the floor and won't move, enter the room or acknowledge them. She does loosen up after about half an hour with her grandparents though, however everyone else she will not.
She is bright and cheerful at home in her comfort zone, she is much quieter than her over confident sister but perfectly ok at home.
She goes to daycare 4 days a week and has done so for 2 years - she is ok with 2 teachers that have really make an effort to build trust, but everyone else she won't talk to much at all. She won't participate in kindy class (ie speak up in front of a group). Although she seems to interact with the other kids at kindy ok, if she thinks she is not being 'watched' by teachers.
The major issue is events like birthday parties where she is a nightmare! Even at her own third birthday party she refused to acknowledge or look at anyone as they arrived as she all wanted to give her attention. She refused to even sit and open presents for a couple of hours until she was sure noone was watching. She cowers into me when everyone sings happy birthday. Today we went to another child's birthday party from her kindy and she spent the first 1.5 hours clinging onto my leg while all the other kids were running off having a great time. During the happy birthday song, she freaked out especially and acted really scared. However with about 15 mins to the end of the party she relaxed alot and playng quite happily - as long as she could see I was within about 5 metres of her though.
My main worry is that given the family history of social anxiety that this could be more than shyness that she will grow out of. I worry that as she gets older it won't improve and it will hinder her from enjoying friendships, participating at school for things like show & tell etc.
What do you think - do you think it is normal or should I go with my intuition and see a paediatrician? Many thanks for your advice

Mum to Kayla born 15.03.06 & Maya born 14.06.08

Hi,
I have servere social anxiety and am terrified that my own child will develop it also as it has pretty much ruined my life and I would not wish it on anyone. I have been working really hard to socialise my dd as much as possible and along with my own treatment I am seeking guidance from my phycologist on the best ways to help avoid my dd developing it.
Social anxiety does start when you are young. I would definately be taking my child to see a child pshycologist (sp??) if the signs that you described were present in my child. If you can get onto it early and learn the best way to help your child cope this could potentially save your child from alot of heartache & pain in life. My dd is only 15 months so I am not sure what a typical 3 year old acts like but your dd fears sound quite extreme and she does not sound like she is enjoying life as much as she should.
I really hope it's just a phase your daughter is going through and that she does not have social anxiety. All the best with your dd smile






Hi,
I have servere social anxiety and am terrified that my own child will develop it also as it has pretty much ruined my life and I would not wish it on anyone. I have been working really hard to socialise my dd as much as possible and along with my own treatment I am seeking guidance from my phycologist on the best ways to help avoid my dd developing it.
Social anxiety does start when you are young. I would definately be taking my child to see a child pshycologist (sp??) if the signs that you described were present in my child. If you can get onto it early and learn the best way to help your child cope this could potentially save your child from alot of heartache & pain in life. My dd is only 15 months so I am not sure what a typical 3 year old acts like but your dd fears sound quite extreme and she does not sound like she is enjoying life as much as she should.
I really hope it's just a phase your daughter is going through and that she does not have social anxiety. All the best with your dd smile

Mum to Kayla born 15.03.06 & Maya born 14.06.08

Hi, thanks so much for your insight. As I said my husband has social anxiety so I understand the difficulties you face. You mentioned that you have had some discussions with a professional as to how to help your DD from avoiding social anxiety - did you mind sharing some tips? What I am trying to do is obviously socialise her as much as possible, not to avoid these situations, get to as many kids birthday parties as possible and try to build up her confidence. Anything else that should be considered?
I spoke to my mum tonight about it and she thinks she is just a normal shy girl but mum doesn't see everything we see. I think I will still get a referral to a paediatrician just so that, if nothing else, I can sleep at night knowing it has been ruled out. And if she does have social anxiety I think the earlier we know about it the better.
Thanks again

Mum to Kayla born 15.03.06 & Maya born 14.06.08

Hi there,

Yes I do believe its possible at 3 years...its probably just called something else though!

Firstly, my daughter does exactly the same things. All of them. She is now 4 years old and is doing them less and less. I have always had a problem with social anxiety right from when I was a little kid and then on and off through my life. I too was worried about her having something similar. However the approach I took was to fully support her in her feelings. I found that when she was overwhelmed she would react as you have said. So from when she was about 1.5 I asked people don't smother her when they see her. I asked them to wait until she comes to them. (most) people respected that and over the past year she became relaxed, happy, chatty in their company and is now becoming more and more open to others. If they are in her face though...no chance.
I also tried to give her techniques to deal with it. I explained that she was welcome to not speak until she was comfortable and she didn't have to kiss anyone hello if she was not ok with it. I usually gave her some toys and put her somewhere she felt safe. She would usually hang out there for a bit and then come out when she was ready. I never pushed her into situations she wasn't comfortable with.

The thing is with anxiety, if you are prone to it, you are prone to it. You can take her to a psychologist if you feel it will help, but for my dd, it would stress her out. Even if you fix it now, different things can set it off again. Its important to remember that some kids are more sensitive then others and they won't all be confident boisterous little beings. I think even if you go and see someone to get some techniques to teach her, you will be better off. I have found by fully supporting her and letting her know it is ok to feel what she is feeling, she is coming out of it. She has never been babysat and I feel that it would have been detrimental to her if I had. However now she is starting to request alone time with the people she wants to hang out with. (grandparents friends etc) we are currently overseas and she even requested to play with other kids and adults in the family carriage (games, colouring in etc) on the tgv train. SHe has had a dramatic shift in shyness over the last few months, and I believe it comes from letting her build her confidence in her own time.

I certainly wouldn't assume your or my dd has social anxiety. I would recognise the issues they are having and support them emotionally and by providing them with techniques to deal with the situations. I have found letting her be more and more independent in regards to choices and freedom has meant a confidence boost and she is less shy.

All the best with it.

Hi, thanks so much for your insight. As I said my husband has social anxiety so I understand the difficulties you face. You mentioned that you have had some discussions with a professional as to how to help your DD from avoiding social anxiety - did you mind sharing some tips? What I am trying to do is obviously socialise her as much as possible, not to avoid these situations, get to as many kids birthday parties as possible and try to build up her confidence. Anything else that should be considered?
I spoke to my mum tonight about it and she thinks she is just a normal shy girl but mum doesn't see everything we see. I think I will still get a referral to a paediatrician just so that, if nothing else, I can sleep at night knowing it has been ruled out. And if she does have social anxiety I think the earlier we know about it the better.
Thanks again


I think socialising is really important, but I think it has to be the right kind of socialising. There is no point going to birthday party after birthday party if its just full of hyped up kids and she is totally overwhelmed. She needs to build her confidence. Also don't forget at 3 they still don't do so much playing with kids. Its still quite independent play at that stage. I found regular, structured activities were much more beneficial. When she was 3 our week was usually a mix of the following
mon: swimming lessons and sometimes a grandparent visit
tues: storytime library
wed. kindergym
thurs:playgroup (waldorf) and or friends house
fri: grandparents house

things like birthday parties or outings where there were heaps of people were usually overwhelming and did nothing towards helping her. However by regular activites where she knew what to expect, she built her confidence and is now much better at the other social occasions.

Hi, thanks so much for your insight. As I said my husband has social anxiety so I understand the difficulties you face. You mentioned that you have had some discussions with a professional as to how to help your DD from avoiding social anxiety - did you mind sharing some tips? What I am trying to do is obviously socialise her as much as possible, not to avoid these situations, get to as many kids birthday parties as possible and try to build up her confidence. Anything else that should be considered?
I spoke to my mum tonight about it and she thinks she is just a normal shy girl but mum doesn't see everything we see. I think I will still get a referral to a paediatrician just so that, if nothing else, I can sleep at night knowing it has been ruled out. And if she does have social anxiety I think the earlier we know about it the better.
Thanks again


whats the difference between shy and having social anxiety? shyness is a form of it. Social anxiety is the medical term.

You can't rule out social anxiety. Nobody can. They can say they think she is just shy but what is the difference? In an adult you might say social anxiety is when it effects your life in a negative way and shyness is easily overcome by comparison. What about people that are incredibly shy, why isn't that social anxiety?

Look what I am saying is... sure your dh has been diagnosed with it and it can be genetic. Being genetic, it means the trigger will always be there, its how you support her in the meantime. You can get a piece of paper from someone that says she doesn't have it. But next year she might. or 10/20 years later something might trigger it. Or she may never have a drama at all.

I would be more concerned about supporting her through it, rather then getting a diagnoses. She has these reactions with these situations, regardless of what they label her. Its about building her confidence and supporting her. A diagnoses means nothing and you run the risk of excusing her behaviour because of it. If you believe she has social anxiety - then she will. AN example is, she reacts the way she does when somebody speaks to her, you try and excuse her behaviour when she hides to spare the other persons feelings "don't worry, she is shy." She then hears..."mum says I am shy, I must be." Exactly as if she hears mum say "she is funny" "she is naughty." "she is fat." Straight to the subconcious and straight towards building their lifelong belief system.

I am wondering if it possible to have social anxiety at 3 years of age? My husband has been diagnosed with social anxiety and depression, and I have heard that social anxiety could be genetic.
My 3 year old is becoming increasingly shy/anxious whenever she is given attention by anyone other than my husband, myself and her elder sister - I am wondering if this is just a normal shy little girl or if I should have her checked out by a paediatrician to see if it is something more?
Some examples - we go out for a casual early dinner about once a month with another married couple and our girls come along. She is still shy and will not talk to them at all and is the same with pretty much anyone else we know.
She sees her grandparents at least once a week and has done so since birth, and still every time we arrive and they say hello she drops to the floor and won't move, enter the room or acknowledge them. She does loosen up after about half an hour with her grandparents though, however everyone else she will not.
She is bright and cheerful at home in her comfort zone, she is much quieter than her over confident sister but perfectly ok at home.
She goes to daycare 4 days a week and has done so for 2 years - she is ok with 2 teachers that have really make an effort to build trust, but everyone else she won't talk to much at all. She won't participate in kindy class (ie speak up in front of a group). Although she seems to interact with the other kids at kindy ok, if she thinks she is not being 'watched' by teachers.
The major issue is events like birthday parties where she is a nightmare! Even at her own third birthday party she refused to acknowledge or look at anyone as they arrived as she all wanted to give her attention. She refused to even sit and open presents for a couple of hours until she was sure noone was watching. She cowers into me when everyone sings happy birthday. Today we went to another child's birthday party from her kindy and she spent the first 1.5 hours clinging onto my leg while all the other kids were running off having a great time. During the happy birthday song, she freaked out especially and acted really scared. However with about 15 mins to the end of the party she relaxed alot and playng quite happily - as long as she could see I was within about 5 metres of her though.
My main worry is that given the family history of social anxiety that this could be more than shyness that she will grow out of. I worry that as she gets older it won't improve and it will hinder her from enjoying friendships, participating at school for things like show & tell etc.
What do you think - do you think it is normal or should I go with my intuition and see a paediatrician? Many thanks for your advice


Hi

I think at 3 years old she is very young and so alot of the behaviours here could be perfectly normal for age and perfectly normal for a shy child. I think alot of what OC said is true, in that you need to support her through this rather than force her into situations that you think will "acclimatise" her or lessen her shyness. I think everyone has their own personality, some kids are outgoing, some are shy and you cannot force it either way - they are who they are. I think there's alot to be said for supporting them and making them feel safe and secure in order to build their confidence. At birthday parties with lots of kids its pretty normal for some kids to feel some angst and not want the attention on them and not be comfortable in a siutation with numerous children - that in itself is not necessarily an indication of a "problem". Going to a paediatrician or physcologist might get you a diagnosis but its what you do with that diagnosis that counts - its all about helping her, she is who she is, if she is naturally shy then that is not something you can change but you can help her through supporting her and not forcing her to do things outside her comfort zone. By all means take her to parties but be with her, dont expect her to run off with the other kids or be the centre of attention, she needs to know you've got her back and maybe in time she will feel safe enough to venture out on her own. 3 is very young and all these social activities and birthday parties can be very daunting, dont compare her to other kids - she is not other kids, she is your kid and she is who she is, make her feel special for who she is smile If she is happy knowing you are close by, then be close by, let her know its ok, let her know she doesnt have to do anything she is not happy to do. If she wants to go to a party and stay with mum then that's ok, if she wants to go off and play with other kids then that's ok too.

With the friends dinner thing... if you only see them once a month then that is a LONG time for a 3 year old, its not frequent enough for her to build a relationship and feel safe... so each time is like the first time again.

We all worry about our kids, we all want them to be confident, develop "normally", make friends and fit in - the most important thing is we accept our kids for who they are and its that which makes them feel accepted and "ok" at the end of the day. Kudos to you for taking into account your partners social anxiety and wanting to help your DD, its not an easy thing to deal with, no one wants to be like this, everyone wants to be accepted and feel at ease in social situations... so teach your DD that she is accepted, she is ok... for who she is.
Hi, I agree with some other points that have already been brought up. She may have an anxiety related to social situations, but that doesn't necessarily mean "social anxiety" can or will be diagnosed. I am unsure whether it even exists, and I presume that it does not matter much either way as has been stated by others. You know that she gets anxious in social scenarios so I believe that is the main thing. The best piece of advice I can offer is to treat her, not as though she is special IN SPITE OF her problems, but that she is simply special and her shyness is just a part of her. I would suggest to not draw attention to it which would surely just create more anxiety and stress? Even if it started as a genetic issue, it could be worsened by habit ie she is shy, then she is worried she is doing something wrong, she thinks "I wish I weren't shy", then she remembers other painful incidences of shyness, then her own mind would probably just intensify it (Maybe that is what happens to socially anxious people anyway), and then she could get into this habit every time she is in a social scenario for a long time... you have not given any indication that you are making her more anxious so I am not judging, I am just offering an opinion as to the best way to act. It is not based on anything you said apart from the question as to what you should do. And based on your feeling that you should get her diagnosed.

I also would like to add that my daughter is similar however I do not consider that she has a diagnosable anxiety problem as such, just that she is a cautious and reactive person who is prone to anxiety in certain situations (perhaps that is social anxiety, I don't know).I believe that I am preparing her well to deal with these things. Perhaps you should introduce the word "anxious"? My daughter identifies when she feels anxious, and she has a plan of action as to what she could do to alleviate the stress and anxiety. Her anxiety is likely different to your daughter but maybe you can tell her anxiety is a normal feeling, and then if she knows what it is she can see it as something to overcome rather than just not understanding and being constantly put into scenarios where she feels anxious. Don't constantly ask "do you feel anxious?" but if she says to you "mum I feel anxious" you can suggest to her to go and get a drink or to read a book alone for a while, in order to alleviate that anxiety. I am making suggestions, however these are simply ideas and I am uncomfortable advising you to do any of it as I don't know you or your daughter. I was simply raising questions and a few ideas in the hope that you could get something from it.
Thanks so much everyone for you input - I really appreciate you all taking the time to pass on some advice.
I have been very careful in the past not to call her shy in front of her as I don't want her to hear that term. Also with taking her to the paediatrician, part of me wondered if this would add to her feeling labelled as shy/anxious - I don't know, I think I worry too much as I just love my kids so much! The main reason I have been worried is knowing what my hubbie has gone through and wanting to see any signs (if there are any) as early as possible.
But I do hear everyone's advice - regardless of whether she is shy or diagnosed with something, the care I give her would be very similar. I take it on board not to push her into too many scary situations and do it gradually to build her confidence. She is a special little thing - the bonus of all this is that she loves her mummy cuddles so I should really enjoy it as long as possible!
Thanks again

Mum to Kayla born 15.03.06 & Maya born 14.06.08


Thanks so much everyone for you input - I really appreciate you all taking the time to pass on some advice.
I have been very careful in the past not to call her shy in front of her as I don't want her to hear that term. Also with taking her to the paediatrician, part of me wondered if this would add to her feeling labelled as shy/anxious - I don't know, I think I worry too much as I just love my kids so much! The main reason I have been worried is knowing what my hubbie has gone through and wanting to see any signs (if there are any) as early as possible.
But I do hear everyone's advice - regardless of whether she is shy or diagnosed with something, the care I give her would be very similar. I take it on board not to push her into too many scary situations and do it gradually to build her confidence. She is a special little thing - the bonus of all this is that she loves her mummy cuddles so I should really enjoy it as long as possible!
Thanks again


Naww you sound like an awesome mummy, she'll be ok with you in her corner smile
Hi

My 3 year old daugther is exactly same as you described in this post. did she outgrow this kind of nature ?

COuld you please let me know what all i can do make her little social ?
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