All kids, like adults, fall somewhere on the extrovert and introvert spectrum. While naturally talkative and well-spoken kids tend to feel at ease in social settings, it can be difficult to know how best to help a shy child navigate life without feeling anxious or uncomfortable. There are some tips and techniques that can help a shy child feel more confident in their interactions at home, in school, and other social settings, so you as a parent don’t have to feel lost when it comes to helping them out.
Do Not Make Apologies
It can be difficult as a parent to watch your shy child look awkward and mumble when meeting new people. It is tempting to apologize and explain, “Sorry, they’re just shy.” This is a no-no for a couple of reasons. First, by apologizing, you are making your child believe there is something wrong with being shy. Second, by repeatedly stating your child is shy, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a child hears constantly that they are shy, they will begin to believe that they are and act more this way.
Give Pep Talks before Social Interactions
Help your shy child prepare for social settings by talking through different scenarios. Remind them to look at people when being spoken to. Depending on the age of the child, doing little role play scenarios can be helpful. Coach them on how to wait for breaks in conversation and when to best break in. Making friends can be difficult for shy kids so help them out by talking over conversation starters.
Provide Safe Social Practice
Giving your child opportunities to interact with others when you are nearby and where they feel supported is key. Encourage them to order their own drink at the pizza place, say thank you to the bus driver, or shake hands with your co-worker. It may not be easy, but it’s best to practice when mom or dad is close by for a feeling of security.
Keep an Open Dialogue
It is extremely easy to be an overbearing parent to a shy child. Resist the urge to answer questions and give explanations for your child. Instead, gently nudge them towards answering for themselves. Since shy children are typically good listeners, but slower to communicate, conversations take a bit more work. Be patient and give your child a chance to speak.
Model Good Social Manners
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert by nature, make a conscious effort to model excellent behavior. Children often mirror what they see, so speak up, look at people, and shake hands firmly.
Take time to watch and discuss your child’ interactions. Work on positive ways to bring up areas of improvement that you observe. Make sure to compliment and praise your child when they do something good in social situations like hold open a door or say thank you.
Make sure you give plenty of opportunities for your child to stretch their wings and grow. Shy kids might not mind spending a lot of time alone, but appreciate being included in other activities as well. Whether you try swim lessons in Houston, or a community art class. Give kids a place to find out what they love to do. Meeting others with similar interests is often all it takes to get them talking and making more friends.
Accept Your Shy Child
Accept and embrace your quiet and reserved child. Shy kids have their own strengths and are often are excellent listeners and very conscientious students. Teach them to embrace and accept themselves for the wonderful people they are.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a shy child and shyness does not typically indicate a lack of confidence or low self-worth. Oftentimes, shy children have very healthy self-esteem and simply don’t enjoy being loud and boisterous. Keep an open dialogue with them and watch for any areas of concern. A happy, but shy, child may not seek out social interaction, but is able to make eye contact, practice good manners, and be overall more content. By embracing and accepting your shy child the way they are, you will best help them navigate an extroverted world as a shy and perfectly well adjusted person.
About the Author
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.