My Daughter’s Social Anxiety Is Getting Worse; What Do I Do?

My daughter sits in the car with me. Her whole body is turned away as she looks out the window. She’s upset with me because I’m forcing her to go to lunch with me. She has the day off and I’m desperate to spend time with her.

During winter break her days were spent in bed for the most part. She slept in, took a shower and made her way downstairs to get something to eat. I told her, “I’ll get my work done early and then we can do whatever you want.” I’m glad I work from home so I can keep an eye on my teens and spend time with them when they are home.

My daughter doesn’t want to do anything. Her social anxiety is getting worse. (Twenty20 @VaughanPetersen)


My daughter never wants to do anything

Of course, she doesn’t want to do anything.

She watches Netflix or TikTok videos. She doesn’t leave her room. I yell up to her about once an hour to say hello and ask her what she’s doing. “Hi Honey, what are you doing?”

She says, “Nothing.” She always says nothing. Her anxiety is exacerbating mine but I need to hide that from her lest it make her anxiety worse.

Today I took her devices away and told her she had to come out with me, which is why she feels the need to punish me by turning away as much as humanly possible. “The sun is out. We’ll soak it up in the car and have a great time,” I tell her. I try to remain cheery because I know drawing attention to the fact she wants to stay in all the time and doesn’t want to do anything only makes it worse.

When we get to our destination she doesn’t want to get out of the car. As her brother and I get out of the car, she asks me if she can stay in the car.

If I let my daughter stay home, she wouldn’t go anywhere

I feel like if I let her stay home, or in the car all the time she would. She’s quit all sports and has lost interest in spending time with friends except for a select few. No matter what I suggest we do, more times than not, she says no.

Meeting new people is always met with a tenseness I’ve never seen in her. She’d rather eat the wrong order at a restaurant than let the waitress know they’ve mistakenly given her a burger without bacon, and chips instead of fries.

My daughter used to be social and dance in front of crowds. She loved to play with everyone and anyone on the street. She wanted to be a chef and would spend hours in the kitchen cooking.

But now, she has become a stoic, anxious version of who she used to be. As her mom, I feel helpless and I don’t know what to do.

She refuses to have her picture taken and talks about how much she hates walking down the hall alone at school.

My teen’s social anxiety is getting worse

Her social anxiety is getting worse. I can’t fix it and there is a part of me that is so frustrated with myself and with her that I feel like I could break something with one bare hand.

Yes, I’ve tried therapy. Yes I force her to do things in an encouraging tone because I think if she gets used to being out among people she’ll get more comfortable.

But, there are times when I’m so tired and exhausted by it, I just order her food for her or we stay at home because I don’t have it in me to try and pry her out of the house. These are times that I feel the most angry at both of us.

I’m sure consistency is key here but when you have more than one teenager to think about, there are times you just have to go to the movies or the game while leaving one behind because you have zero fight in you. My other kids shouldn’t suffer and be forced to stay home because they have one sibling who doesn’t want to go and I don’t want to have to argue the same damn argument every day.

The older my daughter gets— she’ll be 15 this year— the worse her anxiety gets. She already talks about how she doesn’t want to take drivers education and how she wants to get a job but doesn’t want to be around people.

I’m having a moment in motherhood that I used to fear: I’m throwing up my hands because I literally have no idea what to do or how to help her.

I tell her to come in and sit with us “You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to. Just come in and be around different people and breathe different air. You will feel better, I promise.”

We walk into the restaurant, one of her favorite places to eat, and it’s really busy. The line is long and I think she’s just going to stand close behind me while I order than follow me to the table. I want so badly to tell her I’ll order for her if she’ll just enjoy her meal but I don’t. I order my food without turning around. Then I listen to my son order his. In the middle of it he whispers to me asking if he should order for his sister. It’s hard today, but I shake my head,

She starts ordering her meal. I don’t look at her, pat her back, or tell her good job. I give her the space to do it and inside I’m so relieved I have to hold back the tears.

This is progress no one would understand unless they’ve been through it. We sit and eat and talk. I act normal and don’t draw attention to the fact we are doing something very normal.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I have no idea how my daughter will feel or if she’ll leave her room. All I know is I will keep loving her. I will keep searching for what she needs without doing it all for her. We will keep doing our best.

The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.

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About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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