It’s surprising to some, how a birthday party invitation can be anxiety provoking for a child. For some, it evokes strong social anxiety if they don’t have friends, don’t know how to make friends, perceive that they are not liked by other children and fear embarrassment.
Some children are right on track with social development but still, show panic-like responses when they are faced with a party invite. For most of the children I’ve worked with on this issue, the “fear of the unknown” is a major player. The environment, activities and mixed group of children attending could all be unknown factors. It’s normal for your child to be overwhelmed by this, and not even understand why. Either way, do your best to listen to and validate their feelings. Then commit to attending those parties with some anxiety reducing strategies under way.
Tips for Reducing Anxiety Around Birthday Parties:
- Most importantly, send your child to the party! Avoiding the party is more likely to increase the fear and decrease their chances of going to the next one.
- Help your child identify at least one person they will know, a “safe” buddy (child or adult)
- Role play ways they can meet and greet new children
- Have them carry your phone number in your pocket, and if they still feel afraid during the party they should call to “check in”
- For intense resistance, tell your child that the only must is that they get in the door. Once they check out the scene (and see all the fun!) they can make an agreement on how long to stay
Myths About Your Teen And Parties:
• My child is a scholar and student athlete: he or she does not have a risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
• I would know if my child is under the influence.
• My child went through a drug prevention program at school and received a certificate, so I don’t have to worry.
• My child is too young to have a drug or alcohol problem.
• Letting my child and his or her friends drink at my house is safer than letting them experiment elsewhere. At least I can monitor things.
• My child went through high school without having a drug or alcohol problem, so college will be fine.
Facts About Drugs, Alcohol and Teens:
Research tells us that:
• All kinds of students can experiment with drugs or alcohol. Good grades and involvement with sports or other activities can reduce risk, but does not eliminate it.
• Our children can fool us. We can miss the signs of experimentation.
• Drug and alcohol prevention programs don’t always work. Kids can know the facts and risks of substance abuse but experiment anyway.
• Alcoholics and addicts often report that they began experimenting in middle school or even earlier.
• Drinking while underage is always against the law, and serving underage kids is against the law and creates liability for parents. Letting them drink at home is a dangerous practice.
• College presents a new set of challenges including more independence, initiation into fraternities and sororities, the presence of older students who are over twenty- one, and binge drinking.
This is all frightening! What can we as parents do to help protect our tweens and teens from drug and alcohol abuse?
What to Do For Your Teen?
• First of all, accept that any child and any family can be confronted with this problem. Educate yourself about the risks and research.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Start talking early to your children about the dangers of smoking, drugs and alcohol use. Have regular discussions of any topic to create a climate where your children are not afraid to bring up issues.
• Set rules and guidelines that meet your family’s needs and values, including curfews. Your child will always be ready with examples of other people’s rules, but that is irrelevant. Your family has its own rules.
• Know your child’s friends and the friends’ parents. Set up a communication network with other parents. Let them know that you want to be informed about problems. Parents that are picking up or dropping off at parties /events should be alert to problematic behaviors.
• Talk to other parents about plans, and make sure that there will be adult supervision at parties and overnights.
• Get to know your child’s teachers, guidance counselors and coaches. Familiarize yourself with the school and team rules and policies governing drug and alcohol use. Most school and sports teams have zero tolerance policies.
• Have a zero tolerance rule at home for teen alcohol use.
• While privacy is important, let your child know that his orher room is not off limits to you.
• Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior. Unusual difficulty getting up in the morning, falling asleep in class, slipping grades, a change in peer group, loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies, or physical and emotional changes may all indicate a drug or alcohol problem.
• Remind your child over and over again that it is never OK to drive under the influence or get in the car with a driver who is under the influence.
• Have a “no questions asked” policy. If your child is at an event or party and does not feel safe, he or she can call you for a ride home at any time, no questions, asked.
• If your child is in college, make sure that he or she signs a release form so that college officials can contact you if problems arise.
• If you suspect a problem, talk to your child. Trust your judgment. Consult with your pediatrician who can do urine and blood checks. Seek out professional help if needed.
At all stages of your child’s development, educate, communicate and be proactive. Be an ongoing problem solver and source of support for your child.
Note: Jan Keller Schultz is the mother of three grown children who have made it safely into their twenties!