March 23, 2011

Parenting a Shy Child

Parents are often concerned when their young child is shy. Shyness is often evident when their child experiences a new situation. Parents look around at other children the same age and feel that their child is not as social as other children.

Concerned parents feel they need to do something to help their shy child. They will often enroll their child in numerous activities thinking that more exposure to social situations will help overcome the shyness. It may have the opposite effect. The child may feel so overwhelmed with so many new situations and people that he becomes fearful and has even more difficulty in social situations or he may even regress.

I think the first step is to take a closer look at the reasons for your child's shyness.

Could shyness be a part of her temperament? Is she more introverted than extroverted? If most of your family members are extroverted and she's introverted it's perfectly natural to want her to be like the rest of you. Respect her for the temperament she was born with and try not to change her.

Some children are more cautious in new situations and around new people. Try not to compare him to other children his age as each child develops their social skills at their own pace. A slow-to-warm up, cautious six year old may one day be the teenager who stops and thinks before acting impulsively.

If the child is a preschooler she is still developmentally learning how to navigate social relationships. If she is already participating in social settings look for small signs of progress. Most shy children navigate social situations gradually so applaud the small steps she is making. Tell her you're proud of her for saying hello to a child or adult she didn't know. Build on her strengths.

Pay attention to how you and other family members refer to your child's shyness. Do you use the word shy to describe him? It's possible he takes on some of the attributes of shyness because that's what he hears from the significant adults in her life. If your child hears often enough that he's shy he may start using shyness as an excuse for not trying.

Children learn by watching the people around them and that's usually their parents. Take note of the social behaviors you're role modeling for your child.

Most children outgrow shyness but if your child is struggling consider getting professional help.

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