Confidence is the Most Important School Supply Davidson’s Aimee Symington offers tips to help ward off back-to-school anxiety by Lori K. Tate photography by Anthony Rikansrud
60 LAKE NORMAN CURRENTS
hether your second grader is nervous about his new teacher or your sophomore is a little panicked about her AP class load, social anxiety is common when kids head back to school. The good news is that there are things you can do to help your child temper those anxieties for the new school year. As the CEO of Finesse Worldwide Incorporated, Davidson’s Aimee Symington teaches social skills and etiquette to children and adults worldwide and knows firsthand how these skills can ward off social anxiety. The mother of two is quick to point out that she deals with mild social anxiety where kids get anxious in social situations, won’t look people in the eye, talk quietly and avoid being the center of attention. In more severe cases of anxiety, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are in order. One of the main contributors to social anxiety these days is the advent of social media and cell phones. “While technology helps us in a lot of ways, what is happening is that people are not learning how to communicate one on one,” says Symington. “I think we also need to look at our lifestyle and our parenting lifestyle. I think generally people are so busy. We overcommit our kids, and we as parents aren’t really taking
Davidson’s Aimee Symington teaches social skills and etiquette to children and adults worldwide.
the time that we need to sit down and teach our kids some of the things they need to know.” Symington says it’s important to teach basic social skills to children so that they will be more prepared for their middle school and high school years when parents are not setting up play dates and volunteering at school. “When you teach kids to say ‘please,’ what you’re really teaching them is that people have options of whether to do something for you or not and that you need to use polite words,” she explains. “Using the term ‘thank you’ shows gratitude and that feeling and behavior of gratitude is so important as you go through life.” During play dates, you can teach kids to be a polite host by having them invite
guests in and share toys. You also need to teach them that when they go to someone else’s house they need to follow their rules. “With all of these things you’re setting up the foundation of them being a caring and respectful person,” says Symington. Later in kindergarten through fifth grade, kids need to know how to make friends. Smiling at other children and doing kind things for fellow students help tremendously. “If you see a kid and they drop their backpack, help them pick it up. If they need a crayon to color, share yours,” she says. “It’s teaching kids to be empathetic. …You’re teaching kindness and respect, but also what happens is the feedback that they get is very positive. They are accepted. People will like them for