SUPPORTING A SHY CHILD
Shyness is often misunderstood because it is not one emotion, but a mixture of fear, tension, apprehension, and/or embarrassment. Shy children seem to lack confidence and are self-conscious especially in new surroundings.
Symptoms of shyness may include gaze aversion, a soft tone of voice, and/or hesitant or trembling speech. It is noteworthy that shyness is not necessarily a negative attribute. Many shy children exhibit an ability to please and think for themselves. Being reserved can also be a worthy personality trait. It is when shyness is severe that parents may become concerned.
One potential concern when a child is extremely shy is that he or she may be perceived by peers as unfriendly and disinterested. Adults can assist children whose shyness interferes with their social development and learning by helping them relate comfortably with others. If no assistance is provided, shyness may worsen.
It should be noted that the process of socialization takes time. In order to feel safe, shy children often stand back and watch an activity. They begin the socialization process by observing and listening to the interactions of others. When they feel comfortable they move closer. Later, they may speak to a teacher, other trusted adults, or a close peer, and after time begin to relate to other children.
A few ways to assist shy children as they develop are:
- Create a caring relationship with the child by attempting to understand his or her thoughts, fears, and other emotions. Reassure the child that all children feel inhibited at times.
- Be accepting of a shy child’s reticence to participate. Allow the child time to adjust to a situation. This will increase his or her sense of security and self-confidence.
- Notice and comment on your child’s strengths including qualities such as kindness and athletic or academic ability. If you feel the attention will embarrass the child, make the compliment
- Help your child see that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect. Encourage him or her to keep trying by emphasizing that making an effort is what you consider important.
- If you label your child as “shy,” your description may become a permanent characteristic of the child. Instead, say something like, “Everyone is different. You are a thinker, who likes to watch and learn about what’s happening before participating.”
- Help your child do things for him or herself. Brainstorm ways to increase positive peer interactions so your child can become more outgoing and independent.
Remember, everyone matures at a different rate, especially when it comes to social and emotional development.
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