Do you have a shy child? Here are several ways you can help your child feel loved and, at the same time, develop crucial skills to help them overcome their shyness to the extent necessary to deal well with others and accomplish tasks in life that require communication and working with people they don’t know. Remember – your goal is not to change your child’s personality; introversion as a personality trait is OK, and your “shy” child might never turn into a bubbly one. Your goal is to help your shy child bring out the best in themselves and empower them to overcome any challenges that could be associated with their shy tendencies.
1. Respect them as they are. Let them know that it’s OK to be shy. Shyness is often stigmatized as a weakness, but, in reality, it is a valid personality trait. Shy children have strengths and weaknesses just like outgoing children. Help your child feel comfortable accepting who they are.
2. Avoid comparisons. Parents sometimes compare their kids to others in order to show their child a “good example” of a certain skill or characteristic. But being compared to another rarely, if ever, helps a child. At best, it makes them feel not good enough; at worst, it can cause resentment toward the other child. There are plenty of ways to help your shy child without comparing them to more outgoing ones.
3. Respond actively when your child expresses their needs. This helps them gain self-confidence and encourage them to continue stepping forward and communicating. It begins in their relationship with you, and can then gradually be transferred to their dealings with others as well.
4. Avoid correcting your child in public. No child enjoys being corrected in front of others, but this can hurt shy children even more, causing them to go further inside themselves and hesitate more expressing themselves.
5. Role play difficult situations with your child before they occur so they can practice how to respond. If you know your child will be facing a situation that challenges them, sit down with them in advance and talk about what’s going to happen. Help them come up with things they can say or do in the real situation. Pretend like you are another person involved in the situation, and invite them to practice with you.
6. Encourage them to talk through their fears so you can come up with solutions together. Take the time to ask your child about anything that seems to be worrying them, no matter how small it may seem. Help them come up with solutions and talk through valid options with them. This helps them feel empowered to face their fears and teaching them how to think things through and determine valid responses.
7. Give your child the opportunity to be around people regularly so they can practice their social skills.
8. Emphasize their strengths to help them build their self-confidence. Any time your child demonstrates a strength, virtue or talent, point it out and encourage them to keep developing it. Shyness is sometimes linked to feelings of inferiority. As a shy child learns to recognize and appreciate their own strong points, they can build their confidence and a healthy self-esteem.
9. Avoid labeling them as “shy.” Yes, some children truly are shy by nature, but many pass through shy phases. Labeling a child as shy can reinforce the shy behavior. If your child is shy by nature, they could become convinced that they can never overcome their awkwardness in social dealings. If your child is just passing through a phase, labeling them could cause their passing phase to become a habit. There’s nothing wrong with talking to your child about what shyness is, and strengths or challenges that could be associated with shyness, but avoid labeling them. Even if your child is convinced that they are shy, your unwillingness to label them is a constant reminder that they are not defined by an individual characteristic, such as shyness.
10. Don’t allow shyness as an excuse. Some children use their shyness as an excuse to stay away from social occasions or avoid tasks that require them to come out of themselves. Empathize with how they feel and what they find challenging, but continue setting the expectation that they put their best foot forward and learn skills that can help them handle challenging situations instead of shying away from them.
11. Give your shy child a lot of physical and verbal affirmation. Knowing that they are loved, valued and appreciated can go far in helping a shy child come out of themselves.
12. If you know something that might catch your child off guard, talk to them about it in advance. Shy children are better able to handle situations that they know are coming and have thought through. When they are caught by surprise, it’s easier for them to retreat into themselves.
13. Listen to them. Shy children, in particular, need to be heard and understood. Talk to them, but listen to them more. Encourage them to talk and share their thoughts and feelings with you.
14. Encourage your child to share their interests and talents with others. A shy child can greatly benefit from realizing that they have valuable contributions to make to their community, and that others can learn from them just as they can learn from others.