Helping Shy Children
Why are Children Shy?
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In this Issue:

  • What is Shyness
  • Helping Shy Children Develop Better Social Skills and Success
  • Ask Dr. Andie
  • What's New

What is Shyness

Shyness is something everyone has experienced at one time or another. In children, some shyness is developmentally appropriate especially at ages six months or at about two years of age. Typically, it is normal, temporary behavior. However, shyness becomes an issue when it becomes a fear or a withdrawal from other people or social situations. It is something that should not be ignored by parents because shyness can be very painful for a child to live with and its effects could follow a child into adulthood. Some of the side effects of shyness are: difficulty in making and sustaining friendships, trouble asserting oneself, being perceived as aloof and cold, difficulties in learning effective communication skills, and trouble in expressing emotions. Fortunately, shyness is often not a difficult problem to correct, but the solution will take a strong committment from you as a parent.

Helping Shy Children Develop Better Social Skills and Success

There is not one single reason why shyness develops in some children. One cause may be due to coping with new situations that may tend to cause withdrawal as a result. Some children are simply born with a more sensitive, reactive temperament that tend to take time to warm up to people which may lead to becoming a shy child. Another factor is inconsistent parenting that makes children feel insecure which can lead to shyness. Sometimes children become shy because they have modeled behavior from their shy parents who may not have many friends or social interests. No matter what the reason may be for a child's shyness, there are some things that a parent can do to either prevent or help shy behavior:

  • Expose children to many different people and social situations: Starting at a young age, parents should introduce their children to many different people, social situations, and activities like play groups. This helps young children get use to new social interactions in various settings giving them opportunities to interact with one another. Also, by getting the shy child involved in social activities, it counteracts their tendency to want to isolate themselves from others.
  • Help children feel capable by teaching them responsibility and independence: Too often shy children are too dependent on their parents or other significant people in their lives. This creates overly dependent children to be reluctant in taking risks in making friends or to get involved in social situations. Give your child some responsibilities like some chores that are challenging but are within the child's capabilities. Encourage them to be able to make decisions. When kids feel important, that enhances their self-love for themselves.
  • Don't speak for shy children: It's important for shy children to speak up for themselves and they will do it if they have a chance. If parents answer for their shy child, it not only reinforces shy behavior but also does not give the shy child opportunities to practice social communication skills.
  • Practice and role-play social situations using social communication skills: Sometimes shy children act quiet because they do not have the communication skills in knowing what to say. A great game to play is Guest Show. Pretend you are the interviewer and "interview" your child about their favorite foods, and other things about them. Then switch roles and let your child interview you. You can move into more definitive role-playing like what to say when someone sits next to you on the bus. When shy children feel more capable knowing what to say in conversations during social interactions, they gain more confidence to engage in these social behaviors during real life situations.

Ask Dr. Andie

Questions can be submitted through the website and if possible, will be answered either in the Q&A section or in the Power2Relate Newsletter.

My daughter is 8- years- old and she has always been a more reticent, shy child. I've gotten her involved in 4H clubs because she likes animals and recently she decided she wants to be a girl scout. She's really worried about being a girl scout since she will be with a new group of girls. Is there anything I can do to make her more at ease and less shy in this girl scout group?

I'm glad that you have gotten her involved in some group activities that she might like. However, don't always expect that she is going to be outgoing or talkative in all groups especially one that she doesn't know other children. Being in a new social situation is challenging for most kids. Let her take some time to get use to the girl scout group at her own pace. Shy children, in particular, need to make small, gradual steps in acclimating to new social situations. I would encourage her and praise her for wanting to be involved in this group. Remind her how well she did in her 4H club and have her focus on that success and how it can be duplicated in this new girl scout endeavor.


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