Tips for Helping the Shy Child
Did you know that nearly 50% of adults in the United States are believed to be shy?
Why are people shy? It is a normal, adaptive response to a potentially overwhelming social experience. By being somewhat shy, children can withdraw temporarily and gain a sense of control. Generally, as children gain experience with unfamiliar people, shyness wanes.
- Most shy children are just that---children. They want to fit in. They want to belong just like other children, but their anxiety---not their motivation or intellectual capacity---gets in the way.
- Shyness occurs most frequently at particular developmental points – infancy, 2 years old, 5 years old, and early adolescence.
- Researchers have implicated both heredity and environment with shy behavior.
What to Do:
- Positive Framing: Instead of labeling your child as “shy”, respect his or her individual personality. Use these words when describing your child: reserved, private, quiet, thoughtful, focused or cautious.
- Allow a Slow Warm-Up: Pushing a child to be more social is not a good idea. Have your child bring along a prop, such as a favorite game, that can act as a bridge for communication.
- Model Positive Social Skills: Make a list of the kinds of things you would like your child to feel comfortable doing (e.g., talking with other children, asking for help from store clerks, making phone calls, etc) and make a point of doing these things in front of your child.
- Practice Positive Social Skills at Home: Teach children "social skill words" ("Can I play, too?") and role playing social entry techniques. Teach how to shake hands, make introductions and start a conversation.
- Practice Social Skills in a Safe Public Place: Your local park or the Children’s Museum can be a neutral place to practice. Choose a less crowded time of day, such as mid-afternoon, when it’s a little more quiet, but with ample opportunities to engage in play with another child.
Remember there is great worth in quiet self-sufficiency, in deep and honorable honesty, and in absolute faithfulness to those who stand by him or her.
NOTE: Some children may need more assessment if they avoid eye contact routinely and seem to have more than their share of behavioral problems, or are often angry or fearful instead of being peaceful and trusting.
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