How to Parent Teens with Social Anxiety

Parenting a teen with social anxiety requires empathy.
Learn how to parent your teen with social anxiety. Mixmike / Getty Images

If you are the parent of a teen with social anxiety disorder (SAD), it can be hard to know how best to help your teen cope. In addition to helping your child obtain a proper diagnosis and effective treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication, there are a number of steps that you can take to help your teen on a daily basis.

Exposure to Social Situations

Although it may be tempting to be overprotective or to shelter your adolescent, it is important to provide her with confidence-building experiences.

Gradual exposure to new social experiences will help her build social skills and feel more confident about her abilities. This will inherently involve some pushing beyond her comfort zone, but that should of course be approached in a measured way. A therapist can guide this, and your involvement as a parent is key.

If you have a younger teenager, be sure to give her the opportunity to speak for herself in situations such as ordering in a restaurant or asking for movie tickets. Be sure to offer praise and rewards when your teen faces feared social situations.

Listen and Offer Advice

If your teenager is comfortable talking to you about her feelings, listen carefully and offer advice. Let her know that feeling nervous sometimes is normal for all teenagers. Remind her of how she has coped well in the past with difficult situations, and let her know that you have confidence in her ability to cope.

If your teenager is suffering from extreme social anxiety that greatly impairs her daily functioning, has stopped her from attending school, or has posed a danger of self-harm or suicide, it is important to seek professional help immediately.


Akron Children's Hospital. Social phobia

Pruitt, D. Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years. New York: Harper; 2000.

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