If you’ve never struggled with shyness, you don’t know how debilitating it really can be. What seems easy to some people can seem impossible for others. The simple act of introducing yourself to someone new can make you sweat bullets, your heart pound and your knees feel wobbly. For a shy kid, talking to a stranger can be intimidating.
When you have a shy child, you need to find ways to help him come out of his shell a bit. Learning to work on shyness when you’re still little can mean the difference between overcoming your shyness or letting it run your life. Here are a few ways to help your shy child.
Find Her Some Friends
If you have a friend who has children, even if they are a little older or a bit younger, arrange some playdates. If your friend has outgoing kids, that’s even better because they may do most of the talking and that can help your child feel more comfortable until she’s ready to open up.
Give Gentle Nudges, Not Pushes
Nobody enjoys being pushed into something they aren’t ready for, and your shy child is no exception to that rule. Don’t expect her to conquer her shyness in a few days or weeks – it may even be a trait she’ll have for the rest of her life.
Give encouragement, not orders. Don’t allow her to think of shyness as some sort of disability. In fact, don’t label her at all. You may know she is shy, but she might not realize she is any different from any other child.
Try Not to Speak for Her
It can be tempting to answer for your shy child whenever someone asks her questions. Try to resist that urge. If your child is sick and you are at the doctor’s office, when he asks your child how she feels, don’t answer for her – even if there is a brief uncomfortable silence.
There’s no reason for your child to do any talking if you always step in and take charge. Give her a minute before you jump in to rescue her.
If you become frustrated with your child’s shyness, it will make matters worse. She might be left feeling like she is a disappointment, stupid or inadequate. It may take some time, but eventually she’ll learn to open up a little. Until then, give her smiles, a good support system and no judgement.
Practice What You Preach
If you want your child to be a bit more social, show him how. Let him see you talking with a variety of people, in a number of different settings. If socializing looks like fun and you make it look easy, he’ll be tempted to join in. If it looks awkward and uncomfortable, he’ll want to stay in his shell.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.