Parents typically discover if their children are outgoing or introverted around the time the child is three or four. Kids who stay on the sidelines at parties or hug tightly to their mom’s or dad’s legs may be shy.
Even though shyness isn’t a bad thing and introverted children have wonderful qualities to contribute to the world, being overly shy can prevent kids from having their voices heard–especially if they are being bullied or someone has violated boundaries. Parents can help shy children come out of their shells with a few simple strategies.
Discuss new places and people. Prepare children for new situations, which can be overwhelming for children who are shy. Talk about what is expected in a new classroom, moving to a bigger school or even a family party with a lot of people in attendance. Touring a place in advance can make it more familiar to a shy child, helping him or her feel less anxious.
Buddy up with other shy kids. Parents of shy children can seek out others in similar situations. A friend to hang around with in new situations can make it much easier, as these two children can rely on one another.
Try not to label the behavior. It’s one thing for you to understand your child is shy, but sharing that classification with others could lead to unwanted labeling that further exacerbates the problem. A child who constantly hears he or she is shy may not make an effort to change his or her behaviors.
Empathize with your child. Share your experiences of when you were feeling shy with your child. Talk to them about what you did to overcome your feelings.
Model confident behavior. Whenever you can, be outgoing in front of your children when meeting new teachers or other children’s parents for the first time.
Provide opportunities for children to express their feelings. Create a safe environment for your children to share their feelings with you, whether through play or arts and crafts. Find an environment where they can openly express how they feel.
Offer praise as often as you can. When a child acts bravely, tell him or her about how proud you were when you get home or to a private place. Doing so in private may help the child feel more comfortable and less embarrassed.
Speak of different clubs or activities. Suggest your child participate in various group activities so that interests are explored and new friends can be made.
Shyness is something many children grow out of over time. In the interim, parents can provide support.