Let’s talk about shy children for a moment. Many children take a bit of time to warm up to others, as they get to know them. I like to say they are “slow to warm” rather than shy. Affixing a shy label to a child does a few things. First, it makes them feel like there is something wrong with them. Second, it makes them feel like they are doomed to always be shy. Neither of those are true. While a shy child may never become a social butterfly, they can learn to build strong friendships and function well in social settings. There are ways to help the shy child, so I’m going to share a few tips with you!
Ways to Help the Shy Child
It IS common for children to feel shy at some point. Even the toddler who “never met a stranger” and the youngster who likes to talk everyone’s ear off can feel awkward or apprehensive when met with new situations or new people. It’s important to understand the difference between being introverted and being shy. The introverted child is energized by time alone and drained by time spent with others. They can become “people’d out” and need time to regroup. The shy child may want to connect with others, but isn’t sure how or becomes nervous or unsure around others. If your child is an introvert, allow them the time they need alone. If being introverted is not the case, here are some ways to help the shy child.
Relate to your Child
One way to try and make your child feel more comfortable around new people is to relate to them. Tell them that being shy is okay and sometimes you feel the same way. Think back to a time when you felt awkward and apprehensive. Perhaps it was the first day of school, you had to switch schools and make friends all over again, or for a job interview. Explain feels nervous or unsure of themselves at times. By sharing your own experiences with them, they will know that you can empathize.
When helping the shy child, it is important that you notice and comment on their strengths, no just their weaknesses. Is your child kind? Are they creative? Do they excel in a sport or school subject? Be sure to build them up in the areas they do well in, because confidence in those areas will translate into more overall confidence.
When entering new situations or meeting new people, allow them time to adjust. Knowing that they have time to adjust will build both their self esteem and their confidence.
Find the commonality
Often times, the shy child just isn’t sure how to enter a conversation with peers. Teach them to look for what they have in common with their peers. The commonality provides an entry point into conversations.
Teach Social Skills
It is important that our shy kiddos understand that while it is okay to be shy, it is not okay to be rude. Social skills are important throughout life. Here are a few social skills to work on.
- Make eye contact when speaking to others.
- Smile when spoken to.
- How to greet others properly.
- How to begin a conversation.
- How to listen (without interrupting) to others.
Many children love role playing. Role playing is especially helpful with the shy child. You can use this time to prepare them for when they meet new people. Whether you play dress up or use puppets, introduce new people while playing, and help them learn ways to respond in different situations. Role play things like birthday parties, new classes, church, and more.
If you know of an event ahead of time that your child will be in a situation where they feel shy and uncomfortable, try to prepare them for it. Prepare them throughout the week, tell them there will be new people there but they are friendly and will want to talk to your child. The morning before the event, tell your child where you are going and what will be happening, make sure they feel as comfortable as possible and encourage them to make new friends.
Look for, and celebrate, the small steps your shy child takes. Things like, “Way to go, I saw that you said hi to your Sunday School teacher,” or “I’m proud of you for saying thank you.” They need to know that you see their effort and are proud of them.
Need to learn more about ways to help the shy child? Consider picking up a copies of these resources!
Nurturing the Shy Child: Practical Help for Raising Confident and Socially Skilled Kids and TeensThe Shyness Breakthrough: A No-Stress Plan to Help Your Shy Child Warm Up, Open Up, and Join tthe FunThe Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph over ShynessNurturing the Shy Child: Practical Help for Raising Confident and Socially Skilled Kids and TeensSay Goodbye to Being Shy: A Workbook to Help Kids Overcome ShynessRaising the Shy Child: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety