Children are very different from one another. Some thrive in environments filled with people. They talk to anyone the meet. They tell stories, and they may even sing their latest song for a delighted group of onlookers. Other children, though, are overwhelmed by a room full of new people, let alone one new person who asks, "What is your name?" This article covers children's shyness in two different situations: around adults and around other children.
Question: My child is very shy around adults in social situations. She hides behind me and won't even say hello. What can I do?
Think about it: Even the most vivacious, talkative child can suddenly become timid when faced with social situations around adults. Most kids will overcome this with time and practice. Some, however, are naturally more tentative with strangers and will always be more reserved in social situations.
- Solution #1: Allow your child to "practice" by involving him in unthreatening social situations, such as a small gathering of friends or family. Being comfortable in such settings comes easier with practice.
- Solution #2: Don't force your child to be more socially outgoing than is comfortable for him. Teach and encourage polite manners, but don't force more than that. Accept the fact that your child may be more reserved, and understand that all people are different, and that these differences are healthy and appropriate.
- Solution #3: Sometimes shyness is actually embarrassment. Children often don't know what to say to adults, or if they do talk, they feel that they are saying the wrong things. It helps to rehearse appropriate responses and tell your child what kind of things to say, such as, "It's polite to answer an adult who talks to you. When Mr. Zither commented on your haircut, you could have said, 'I just had it cut yesterday.'"
- Solution #4: Don't rescue or overprotect your child by jumping in with an answer or excuse to fill a quiet moment. Instead, let him learn through experience, even when it makes him a bit uncomfortable. Encourage and support your child when he makes an attempt to be social. A smile, pat, or a gentle squeeze can let your child know you recognize the effort and think he's doing a good job.
- Solution #5: Don't label your child as "shy." If anyone else makes this comment, correct him or her by saying your child is sometimes "quiet, thoughtful or cautious."
- Solution #6: Give your child a way out if he is really struggling. Teach him to quietly say to you, "P.H." which means, "I'm having a hard time, Please Help." Just knowing he can count on you when the going gets rough may give him the confidence to hold his own in a conversation.