What Can I Do to Help My Son Get Over His Social Anxiety?
Each week, Miss Manners answers questions exclusively from the MSN audience on all of your etiquette dilemmas. (Have an issue you want help with? Send in a questiontoday.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
My 7-year-old son has Anxiety whenever we go somewhere. It could be anywhere, such as school, his baseball game, doctor's appointments, the park, store and the list goes on. He would feel nauseous and his mouth/throat starts to get dried up and vomits before we could go anywhere.
He can't explain to me why he feels that way. He just says he gets very anxious and nervous, but doesn't know why. This has been going on for two years now. It started in kindergarten and it would come and go. Is there something I can do to help my son get over his anxiety?
"Presumably you are already looking for possible underlying causes of your son's pronounced social anxiety. Long ago, that might have been neglected while a child was taught how to behave; nowadays, Miss Manners notices, the opposite is more likely.
The surface problem is apt to be neglected while psychological causes are being sought. But there are two types of etiquette instruction that should help.
The first is to explain the implicit rules of each situation. Rules for the baseball game are explicit; rules for how to deal with teammates' reactions if you strike out are not. Knowing what behavior is expected in different situations, and what to expect of others, even in such neutral places such as stores and parks, should make going there less frightening.
More importantly, such discussions with your child should encourage him to be observant and analytical, and that, in turn, should take his mind off himself.
They should also lead to the second topic, which is understanding why others behave the way they do. Etiquette's insistence on recognizing the feelings of others is often misrepresented as meaning that it requires deferring to them. But as any diplomat can tell you, you have to understand others' feelings in order to change them."
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
When I go for a dental cleaning, diagnostic test, or even for a simple haircut, and work with a new person, I'd like to be friendly. Since I'm with the technician for some time, I expect to make small talk. Talking about the weather, local road construction headaches, or other mundane topics seems the polite thing to do.
However, it seems that I can't make it through an appointment without being asked a lot of personal questions. (How many children do you have? How old are they? Where do they go to school? What do you do? What does your husband do? ) I've been asked all of these questions and more than once.
I don't consider these social occasions, and I'm not comfortable answering all of these questions for someone I've just met. I've tried changing the subject, but typically, they'll just ask other personal questions. Is there a way to stop these questions without being rude?
"Nosiness is many people's concept of small talk nowadays. Miss Manners suspects that if asked, these people would say that they were showing a polite interest in you.
That does not mean that you have to answer their questions. You could give an irrelevant answer ("The family's fine, thank you") and initiate another topic. Or you could say, "Forgive me, but it's so nice to be here and relax without talking."
Judith Martin's latest book is No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice. She is also the author ofMiss Manners' Guide toExcruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated). She and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. Theyhave two perfect children, of course.
I suffer from social anxiety and Ms. Manners advice was nice, but not at all helpful. People who suffer from social anxiety know rationally that their anxiety and fear is unfounded, but they cannot change that or take their minds off of it. This child needs a medical work up to see if his anxiety is based in a medical condition and if not a referal for a psychological work up to determine the cause and get him into counseling to help him learn to deal with the symptoms. The last thing he needs is a lecture before having to face the things that cause him anxiety; that will just make him feel worse.
Please Mom, if you are reading this, get your son to a medical professional pronto!
Buy an iPod and give the rest of us a break. Sorry we tried to be friendly to you.
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