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mashmaster

Helping scouts with social anxiety

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We have a scout that has withdrawn more and more.  The boys in the troop like him pretty much and respect him.  He always tries to do the right thing but has withdrawn and is fighting doing anything with the troop anymore,  Dad is pushing him to stay involved but it breaks my heart seeing him sit alone miserable away from the rest of the troop.  Some of them try to involve him but most just leave him alone and he will sit alone for hours.  

I want to help him, but nothing we have said or done has seemed to help.  Any suggestions?  My heart breaks for him and I know I have shed tears thinking about it.

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Pray.

Sorry. We've seen a variety of these boys. And they will take a while to get better. Nothing we've done as scouters changed that course.

Tell dad to make sure he get's professional help if it's more than just scouting. If it's only scouting, tell dad it's okay to lean in to the other activities the boy likes to do.

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I just finished a unit in my program on mental health.

Im sure you already know this, social anxiety is when someone is afraid is talking to others, being in groups, friends, etc. It can either go away after a while, the person seeks help, or they unfortunately live with it.

He does need professional help, there’s nothing you can do that may help him. Forcing him / nagging him to do things or involve with others will make him even more distant. He most likely needs therapy to learn coping skills, social skills, and so on.

Sidenote, if he does get medication it will not help “cure” his anxiety, only put a relief and temporary help it.

 

Edited by ItsBrian
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6 minutes ago, mashmaster said:

I pray for this boy daily.

There is nothing wrong with having anxiety. Successful people can have anxiety. I even had anxiety for few years and I suddenly snapped out of it as I matured. I would try your best to keep him in the troop.

There are many things you can do to help this scout.

- 1 on 1 (in front of other people of course) with the scout to help him

- Have a adult(s) that he feels comfortable with

- Make him do things that aren’t obvious that you are doing to make him feel more comfortable. (Ex. Asking him to get something from another scout that he is somewhat comfortable with)

I’m sure your council has some resources as well.

Edited by ItsBrian
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We have a similar Scout in our troop. He came on one campout last year, but he arrived late and kept to himself most of the time. He declined opportunities to share a tent with others - preferred going solo. He stayed in his tent while everyone else was cooking, eating, having fun. We finally got him out of his tent by telling him we needed his help for a service project. That campout was the last time we saw him at any kind of Scouting function. His parents say they are struggling just to keep him in school, so we shouldn't worry about his Scouting involvement for now.

I'm aware of several similar situations of other teens who struggle with debilitating levels of anxiety. The problem is surprisingly pervasive, but many parents stay private about it because they don't want to compound the problems for their child.

A very tough situation.

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Just now, gblotter said:

We have a similar Scout in our troop. He came on one campout last year, but he arrived late and kept to himself most of the time. He declined opportunities to share a tent with others - preferred going solo. He stayed in his tent while everyone else was cooking, eating, having fun. We finally got him out of his tent by telling him we needed his help for a service project. That campout was the last time we saw him at any kind of Scouting function. His parents say they are struggling just to keep him in school, so we shouldn't worry about his Scouting involvement for now.

I'm aware of several similar situations of other teens who struggle with debilitating levels of anxiety. The problem is surprisingly pervasive, but many parents stay private about it because they don't want to compound the problems for their child.

A very tough situation.

Did his parents seem professional help?

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Just now, ItsBrian said:

Did his parents seek professional help?

Oh, yes - lots of professionals are involved.

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Mash,

How long has this been going on?  Was he engaged before and you're noticing the withdrawing behavior?  Are there any Scouts in your unit who have been closer to him in the past and he's withdrawing from them too?  Was there a close friend he had in Scouts that has left Scouts or moved away?  Is he withdrawing at school too?  Has he suffered a loss recently - death of a grandparent, a friend, a beloved pet?  What gives you the idea that he has social anxiety?   If he's withdrawing from his closer friends, it may not be that at all.  Even people with social anxiety usually have one or two close friends they hang out with, or rely on in social situations.

 What your describing throws up a different red flag to me - it may be depression caused by a loss of a loved one or some other traumatic event.  It's that other traumatic event that worries me.  You're describing one of the classic signs of someone who is being abused - physically, emotionally or sexually.  

If his parents are getting him professional help, that's a big start.  For you and your unit, just being a constant and consistent presence is important.  And I hate to say it but keep an eye out for how he reacts to individual scouts/leaders.  If you notice his reacting more strongly around a specific individual, start watching that person as well - this scout could be being victimized by that person (here's hoping its not someone in your unit).

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20 minutes ago, CalicoPenn said:

Mash,

How long has this been going on?  Was he engaged before and you're noticing the withdrawing behavior?  Are there any Scouts in your unit who have been closer to him in the past and he's withdrawing from them too?  Was there a close friend he had in Scouts that has left Scouts or moved away?  Is he withdrawing at school too?  Has he suffered a loss recently - death of a grandparent, a friend, a beloved pet?  What gives you the idea that he has social anxiety?   If he's withdrawing from his closer friends, it may not be that at all.  Even people with social anxiety usually have one or two close friends they hang out with, or rely on in social situations.

 What your describing throws up a different red flag to me - it may be depression caused by a loss of a loved one or some other traumatic event.  It's that other traumatic event that worries me.  You're describing one of the classic signs of someone who is being abused - physically, emotionally or sexually.  

If his parents are getting him professional help, that's a big start.  For you and your unit, just being a constant and consistent presence is important.  And I hate to say it but keep an eye out for how he reacts to individual scouts/leaders.  If you notice his reacting more strongly around a specific individual, start watching that person as well - this scout could be being victimized by that person (here's hoping its not someone in your unit).

I assumed that they already had a diagnosis of social anxiety. 

It certainly could be depression. The sudden change in interaction is not caused by social anxiety. He could be having a tough time at home, or even at school that can lead to depression. He could also just be going through a "stage' where he does not want to interact with others due to some issues at home, school, etc. It could even be that he is bullied, which can be showing the signs and symptoms of depression. 

@mashmaster , I would sit down with the scout and ask him if you can do anything to help him and reassure him that the troop is a safe place and that he wants to come back weekly. 

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First of all bless you for caring about this boy.

I have a little experience in this area and as bad as it sounds there are positive signs 1) his parents actually care about him (that is rarer than you might think), and 2) if he is getting professional help that is a gigantic step forward.  If he is suffering from depression than medications will help a great deal.  Nothing "cures" depression, but medications can make the symptoms less severe and less frequent.

I would recommend the following as things that can help:

1.  Always be positive in your interactions. 

2.  Let him know that you want him to stay, but if he wants to take some time off he will always be welcome back (boys in this mood tend to have an all or nothing mindset).

3.  Try and see if rather than just sitting you can get him to be active, even if only by himself.  It might be a first step, and movement has magical properties to help heal.  Maybe there is a merit badge he might like to work on (a sense of progress or accomplishment can mean a great deal).

Any improvement that comes will be incremental and inconsistent, and you can only be a small part of the solution.  His parents and professional help is what will matter the most.

Best of luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, UncleP said:

First of all bless you for caring about this boy.

I have a little experience in this area and as bad as it sounds there are positive signs 1) his parents actually care about him (that is rarer than you might think), and 2) if he is getting professional help that is a gigantic step forward.  If he is suffering from depression than medications will help a great deal.  Nothing "cures" depression, but medications can make the symptoms less severe and less frequent.

I would recommend the following as things that can help:

1.  Always be positive in your interactions. 

2.  Let him know that you want him to stay, but if he wants to take some time off he will always be welcome back (boys in this mood tend to have an all or nothing mindset).

3.  Try and see if rather than just sitting you can get him to be active, even if only by himself.  It might be a first step, and movement has magical properties to help heal.  Maybe there is a merit badge he might like to work on (a sense of progress or accomplishment can mean a great deal).

Any improvement that comes will be incremental and inconsistent, and you can only be a small part of the solution.  His parents and professional help is what will matter the most.

Best of luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medication is like putting a band aid on it. 

I feel like if he says “I want you to stay”, etc. may pressure the scout. I know it would pressure me.

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15 minutes ago, ItsBrian said:

Medication is like putting a band aid on it. 

I feel like if he says “I want you to stay”, etc. may pressure the scout. I know it would pressure me.

I can understand your feelings towards medication, but I have been diagnosed with depression.  The medications, I have used for years have been very beneficial to me.  So we can just agree to disagree.

As for staying, once again I understand your point, but what I meant was to let him know he is wanted, and if he has to take time off to deals with things he is always welcome back.  People in this frame of mind tend to only see limited options and everything is black and white.  It is very important to let someone depressed know that multiple options exist for them.  

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1 minute ago, UncleP said:

I can understand your feelings towards medication, but I have been diagnosed with depression.  The medications, I have used for years have been very beneficial to me.  So we can just agree to disagree.

As for staying, once again I understand your point, but what I meant was to let him know he is wanted, and if he has to take time off to deals with things he is always welcome back.  People in this frame of mind tend to only see limited options and everything is black and white.  It is very important to let someone depressed know that multiple options exist for them.  

I had anxiety (GED) for years. I’m still a youth, but fortunately snapped out of it and don’t have it no where as bad. I had medication, and so do other people I know. It helped me for that time frame, yes. The medication is not designed to cure, it’s only meant to help with the symptoms. It doesn’t help your hypothalamus, amygalda, etc.

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Thanks everyone, I appreciate the input.  His parents have him seeing professional help, I don't believe there is an abuse issue going on or major family event that caused this.  He has always been an introverted boy, it just slid downhill fast since the start of this school year.  Part of it I am sure is being 13 and all the lovely changes in body chemistry but part of it isn't.  I am hopeful that with help and tools from the counselors, we can help him feel comfortable in this space.   I have already begun talking to our more gung-ho ASMs that like to be rigid in rules and boy-led to rethink some of their attitudes and interactions with him.   Hard for them since they feel why should it be different for some boys.  And I hate the term "Safe place to fail", leaders need to not focus on failure as the best way to learn.

Edited by RememberSchiff
spelling gung-ho

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