Acting shy is common in children. Whether they’re attending their first day of school, meeting a new teacher or trying something new, many kids clam up before deciding whether or not it’s “safe” to come out of their shell.
Shyness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kids who are labelled as “shy” are less likely to talk to strangers and are often great listeners. They’re often content to just stand back and observe their surroundings before being comfortable enough to join in on the conversation or activity.
But, while shyness has its positive points, it can sometimes have a negative impact on a child’s social and emotional development.
Kids who are shy tend to react differently to stress than kids who are not shy. They tend to be more easily startled and produce more stress hormones when exposed to new situations. As a result, they’re often too anxious to ask questions in class or take part in social activities which can cause them to do worse in school than their more outgoing peers.
As a parent, there are ways you can help your child become more at ease in social situations, manage her shyness and increase her confidence:
Be a Role Model – Kids look up to their parents and tend to imitate their behaviour. By displaying more outgoing behaviour like inviting friends and family over or striking up conversations with store clerks, you’re showing your child positive ways to interact with others.
Be Patient – Telling your child to stop being “shy” will only cause her to retreat further into her shell. Putting a label on her personality may make her feel as though there’s something wrong with her. Rather than try and push your child to be more outgoing, be patient and respect who she is. As she develops and meets new friends her shyness may subside on its own.
Encourage New Experiences – While you should be patient and respect your child’s shyness, you should also encourage her to try new things. Introducing variety into your child’s life – whether it’s new people, places, food or music, will help her learn how to be comfortable in a variety of different situations.
Plan Play Dates at Your Home – Hosting a group play date in your home will alleviate the pressure of your child having to interact one-on-one with another kid and will provide her with the opportunity to socialize on her home turf. Once she becomes comfortable with the other kids, suggest a play date at someone else’s home or in a neutral area like a park and allow her to bring her favourite toy for comfort.
Encourage Talents and Hobbies – Whether your child seems interested in singing, a sport or writing, encourage her to explore what interests her and what she’s good at. Feeding her talents and having hobbies will increase your child’s self-esteem and provide her with an interesting thing about herself to share with the people around her.
Be Inclusive – Include your child in conversations and social situations whenever possible. If you run into a friend while running errands, encourage your child to say “hi”. If you have a get together at your house, encourage your child to talk about her day or what she’s learning in school. Bringing her into your own social circle will help your child feel like an important part of the family and provide her with a secure environment to share herself with others.
While kids won’t transform into social butterflies overnight, they will soon open up to others and blossom into confident individuals with your patience, consistency and positive encouragement.