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Our Favourite Ways to Help a Shy Child

Helping a shy child out of their shell is a sensitive matter that parents may find difficult to address. These tips help you approach the issue without making your child feel self-conscious

 

Some children jump into social situations with both feet; their personalities shine through and they love being in the company of others. Other children are less comfortable, tending to be apprehensive and awkward when they are around new people or in new situations.

Shyness (also called diffidence) is not abnormal, as a lot of people - adults included - feel moments of shyness. However, when it starts to affect your child's day to day life you may feel the need to draw them out of their shell and help them feel more at ease in social situations.

Noticing shyness in children

The reason we notice shyness in children is that they are so often placed in new environments. Starting in a new school, with a new teacher and new classmates - that can be a daunting situation!

This is a time when children are developing their social skills, and many schools - and adults in general - expect that every child will be capable of interacting on a social level. Anyone who has known more than one child will know that every child develops differently, and at their own pace.

We asked childcare expert Miranda Russell to offer advice to parents who are concerned that shyness is getting in the way of their child's developmental progress:

"The world is a big place when you are small; many children are naturally shy, or occasionally get caught off guard and suddenly find it hard to say 'hello'. Shyness is a very normal characteristic of early childhood. However, as they grow older and gain confidence, it will get better for many whilst still remaining in adulthood for others," says Miranda.

"Shyness needn't be a major concern, but it could hold a child back socially and perhaps impact on their progress at school, so it's ideal to try and help."

Top tips to help your child overcome shyness

Set a good example

Encourage children to socialise

Children like to imitate the adults they look up to, so let your child see you at ease in social situations.

If you aren't comfortable socially, make sure they get to spend time with someone they look up to who's confident in new situations and with new people.

One to one time

Arrange play dates with one friend, at your own home, for an hour or so and repeat as often as possible. Ease your child into situations so as not to overwhelm them.

Short visits

Suggest visiting friends, at their home, for an hour with a Parent or Carer they're familiar with. Being in a new place, but feeling comfortable with the company, will help them relax.

Avoid labels

Don't use the term 'shy' as an excuse or a label. By doing this, your child will sense that there is something wrong with the way they are and it can lead to further retreat.

No need to perform

Don't put your child on the spot by asking them to perform - i.e. playing the piano for visiting Grandparents or friends.

Talk about something they enjoy doing and if they offer to demonstrate, take them up on it. No one likes to feel forced into doing something, especially if they are already on edge.

Listen

Children who are shy often have quiet voices and keep their thoughts to themselves; this is why it's even more important to listen when they have something to say.

Overcome shyness with role play

Encourage them to tell you what they are thinking and how they feel, engage with them as often as possible!

Ask for help and feedback

As a parent, we don't spend 24 hours a day with our children, so enlist the help of those who are around in your absence. Teachers or other childcarers may see them in different situations and may see a different side of your child.

If you notice changes at home, see if those changes are carrying over into other environments.

Stay calm

Try not to get irritated by your child's reaction; instead, acknowledge any comments made in an understanding and sympathetic way whilst at their level. Encourage them to try new things when they express an interest.

Role play

If you haven't managed a successful play date, practice through play and arrange a tea party with the teddies and encourage discussions.

You'll have to play multiple roles, but it may help with the transition into having a friend added to the table now and then.

Acknowledge successes

Don't pressure children into
performing

Praise any advancement, regardless of how small it is - it's an achievement nevertheless.

 

 
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