Having a shy child can be a challenge and can leave a parent feeling out of control. Not knowing what to do about your shy child is common for a lot of parents and often compounded by shyness that they find in themselves. However, there are things you can do to help your shy child.
Many parents claim that they knew their child was shy by around three or four months. This is the case for many parents, but some parents don't realize that their child is shy enough to need their help until years later. Whenever you recognize that your child needs your help to overcome shyness, that is the time to get started.
Many children, even those who were outgoing babies, go through a shy stage around 18-36 months. That is fairly normal. However, you can use these steps to help your child who is going through a shy phase as well as to help them overcome shyness as a whole.
Set a good example. The first step to helping your shy child overcome his or her shyness is to set a good example. This is done by your responses to different social situations.
- Be the first to say "hi" and to begin conversations. Talk to strangers. Greet people in the store or while doing other errands.
- Give out lots of compliments.
- Help those in need.
- Shake hands and make introductions.
- Never avoid social situations. If you are shy yourself, now is the time to work to get over that. Work towards putting your best foot forward and talking to people you know as well as strangers.
Prepare your child for things. Talk to your child about events that are coming up. Let them know what to expect on your way to the doctor's office, the store, or another location. For high social events, give them a couple of days notice. Let them ask questions and express their concerns.
Work on thinking positive. Many shy people are pessimists by nature. Much of their shyness comes from negative thinking such as, "They never like me." or "It doesn't matter what I say, they will never listen to me." With that in mind, work on helping your child become a positive thinker.
- Give your child lots of positive encouragement.
- Let your child know how much you like him or her.
- Point out your child's good points or the times that they have made great successes.
- If your child is old enough then talk with them about negative thinking and teach them to counter every negative thought by thinking about it. Usually negative thoughts come with a "never" or "always". Have them look at it and see that "Sometimes people do like me." or "There are people who listen when I talk". Teaching your child to counter negative thoughts will help them think more positive and have a better self-image.
Talk to your child. Talk to your child about their fears. Listen to why they are shy and how they feel in the situations that make them nervous or anxious. Often times, talking can help a lot.
Talk with their teacher. Often times shy children get left behind in school because they are so quiet. However, a teacher has the power to change that and to help draw shy children out. If they know of the situation at the start of the school year it can help a lot.
It can also be helpful to introduce your child to their teacher before the school year starts. Start by showing them their new class room or the layout of a new building. Bringing a friend can also be helpful.
Practice. You can practice different social situations at home with your child. This can be the first day of school, meeting new people, working on making new friends, and other situations. You can switch spots with them to get different ideas of how to behave and how to reach out to others. It can become a big game to play.
Enter into more situations. Sports and extracurricular activities that interest your child are the perfect way to helping your child make friends with people that have like interests. It will be easier for your child to make friends in these situations.
Encourage friendships among people who are positive and encouraging to your child. Invite them over for play dates and sleep overs. On the other hand, avoid encouraging relationships with children who are overpowering, mean, or demeaning to your child.
Don't do things for your child. As the parent of a shy child it is easy to answer questions, talk, and try to do other things for your child in social situations. This doesn't really help your child any and while hard to avoid, should be avoided.
Challenge your child without pushing them too hard. If you push too hard or make too big a deal about being shy, your child will have a hard time. This limit is different for each child. One way of knowing how hard you are pushing and how your child is responding to it is by keeping the lines of communication open. Here are some fun ways to challenge your child to be more outgoing.
- Send your child with ten pennies in their left pocket. After each time they say, "Hi, how are you?" they move one penny to their right pocket. If at the end of the day they have all ten pennies in their right pocket then they should get a reward.
- Make a game of greeting strangers in the store, running errands, or at church. Each family member gets one point for each greeting. At the end you can make a big deal about the family member with the most points.
- Another variation is to get a point for each new person's hand you shake. This works best in situations where meeting people is easy to do. Do it at church, weddings, and other social gatherings.
- Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people. This can be a fun way to get out and work toward becoming more outgoing while helping others.
Knowing when to seek help. Usually shyness is just part of a person's behavior and who they are. They are naturally timid and struggle to be comfortable in social situations. However, there are some times when shyness is actually a part of something bigger. Children who struggle with these problems often need professional help, but knowing when to get that help isn't easy. These are the signs you should watch for to know when to seek help. Anyone of these could mean that your child needs professional help for their situation.
- Major Meltdowns: Temper tantrums are part of growing up and if your young child (under seven) throws the occasional temper tantrum because he or she is uncomfortable in the social situation, that is fine. However, if your child throws a temper tantrum every time he or she enters a social situation or is throwing temper tantrums after the age of seven, it is a good idea to get help. You can start by talking with your child's doctor.
- Regressive Behaviors: If your child is older than six but begins to act like a baby when he or she is uncomfortable then it is a good idea to seek help. Common regressive behaviors include sucking the thumb, baby talk or babbling, and trying to get held like a baby.
- Constantly alone: Being able to play by oneself is a good skill, but it isn't something that should be that way all the time. If your child is always alone it may be time to seek help.
Remember that there are people out there who are available to help you if you need it. If you feel that your child needs more help than you can give him or her, start by talking with your child's doctor and find out what they suggest. Sometimes we just need more help and we need to remember that its acceptable to need help and to get it.
Having a shy child can be a challenge and getting your child to come out of his or her shell may seem impossible. However, with a little work, a little care, and lots of love you can have a successful student and help your shy child become a shining star!