It would be great if every child was outgoing and poised but many children are naturally shy. How do you coax them out of their shells? Some people are born shy and there is a lot of evidence that indicates shyness has a very big genetic component. Recognize that if your child is shy, sometimes it’s their natural temperament, and it’s very important to respect that.
The great news is, if a child is extremely shy when they are young, this characteristic will evolve. By the time they hit the age of 18, they may very well outgrow it and become more social. Being shy does not become a defining trait throughout the child’s life. The main challenge happens when you have an outgoing parent and a shy child. What are the things that you can do as a parent to help your child become less shy and develop some confidence?
Prepare your child beforehand: If you suddenly plan to take your child to school or maybe a birthday party, this might be overwhelming for them! So, one thing that you can do is call ahead. Take them to the place a few days prior so they can familiarize themselves with the surroundings. Sometimes a child just needs a little time to warm up. Phone the people at the venue and ask, “I wonder if we could drop by so my child can see your house and meet you ahead of time?” Some schools allow children to come and they will integrate them into the system very gradually for this reason. It’s a big transition even for a very outgoing child. It can be a challenge for every young person and shy children, in particular, need a lot of preparation.
Stop labeling your child: They don’t need to be reminded of their shyness all the time. Avoid telling everyone, “Oh he is shy,” or “Sorry my daughter is shy.” This puts unnecessary pressure on your child.
Build confidence: Remind them of a time when they were in new situations and got through it. When going to a birthday party, for example, bring up another party they went to and point out how much fun they had with the other children.
Do some role-playing: It’s important to show your child some great ways to break the ice. Give them ideas on interesting things to say to other children. Get them to practice on you. You can also reverse the roles and act shy so they can see what it’s like from the other person’s point of view. One parent discovered that her daughter didn’t realize that sometimes shyness could be misinterpreted as being snobby or even mean.
Provide an entry strategy: Help your child approach a group of peers and listen. This allows everyone time to get used to one another. Teach them to find a suitable break in the conversation and join in. Offer talking points beforehand, such as, “I like boats too.”
Recognize your child’s feelings: Shyness is a form of anxiety. We have all experienced this fight or flight response. Children feel enormous anxiety when they are in a new social situation. It’s a good idea to acknowledge their feelings. Say something like, “I know it’s sometimes hard for you to meet new children but I also know you can really do it.” Continually encourage them.
Express empathy: Tell your child you know they’re feeling shy and how you sometimes feel that way too. Share stories about times when you overcame your own shyness.
Practice and demonstrate the correct body language: Often when children are shy, they tend to avoid eye contact and move further away from the individual. A good idea is to show them how to give a person eye contact when talking to them. You can role-play giving a handshake when meeting a new person. Teach them the proper way to introduce themselves. Brainstorm for solutions to situations they find uncomfortable and demonstrate how to overcome them. Get your child to try and copy you.
Set your child up for success: Look for school activities that give your child opportunities to succeed. Your child may be avoiding things they don’t think they can do. If you think this is the case, talk to the teacher about giving your child a helping hand.
Don’t urge your child to change: Admonishments such as, “Don’t be shy,” or, “Try to be more popular,” aren’t going to do your child any good and neither are they well received. Your child will likely take them as criticisms and it won’t alter their behaviour much. Remember, as much as you might wish it for your child, being popular is not a goal you want to dangle in front of them. If your child chooses to do things on their own, don’t make them feel inadequate. Many a loner has grown up to be a brilliant inventor or talented writer. Some children aren’t even lonely when they’re alone. They may be shy, but they still like themselves.
Let them work out what career would best suit them: Career Guidance Assessments
Don’t rescue your child: It’s natural to want to prevent your child from getting hurt, feeling discouraged, or making mistakes. But when you intervene, for example by trying to get them invited to a birthday party they weren’t included in or pressuring the soccer coach to give them more game time, you’re not doing them any favours. Children need to know that it’s okay to fail and that it’s normal to feel sad, anxious, or angry.
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