Shyness is completely normal in children and most of the times nothing at all to worry about. In fact, a new study conducted by the University of Colorado and the University of Connecticut examined shyness. They found that shy children know the answer to questions just as often as outgoing kids, but they are just not as eager to state the answer out loud. However, if shyness interferes with what a child wants to do — like play a game, or interferes with what the child needs to do — such as give a presentation at school, parents can help kids overcome it.
Start with displaying some empathy for your child — which means putting yourself in your kid’s shoes. Let them know you understand how they feel and you are not mad or disappointed in them for being shy. Perhaps state something like, “When I was a kid, I was shy too. I remember sometimes it was no fun and got in the way of things I wanted to do. Sometimes I even get shy now.”
Then ask if they would like your help in dealing with it. This will lead the child to feel in control and take ownership of their problem rather than becoming accustomed to you swooping in and solving problems for them.
Simply ask them, “Do you want me to help you deal with this problem?”
Your child will likely say yes, so the best way to make your child learn something fast is to have fun with it — try coming up with ideas together or a role play!
Encourage your child to think of ways they might handle a situation that makes her nervous: “If you feel nervous at school, what could you do to make yourself less nervous? Could you hang out with one of the kids you feel most comfortable with? Could you offer to help the teacher? What do you think you might talk about if your teacher asks you a question?”
A role-play is like acting and it helps your child practice situations where they may feel shy before they happen. In fact, a study conducted with first year Medical Students found that after experiencing a role-play activity, 96.5 per cent of participants described the activity as an effective learning tool. Brainstorm different scenarios where your child may feel shy — for example they became shy when saying “thank you” to the host after the last birthday party they attended. First, ask your child to show you how they would say thank you next time, then praise them for what they did right and offer to correct them where they need some help. Teach them social skills like how to look somebody in the eye, project their voice, and say thank you with confidence. Have your child practice this and you can pretend you are different parents who react in different ways to your child’s thank you.
Do this type of role-play in other areas where your child may be most shy. When you notice that they are being shy in real life, encourage them to act exactly how they practiced. If they could use more practice, then just try it again.
If your child is shy about making friends, try to provide daily opportunities for interacting with others. If they become nervous, tell them to focus on others rather than yourself. For example, your child doesn’t have to be interesting to others, just interested in others. Teach him or her to ask other kids questions about their lives and listen to their answers. A survey conducted at several American Colleges found that 40 per cent of the 800 people questioned considered themselves to be shy.
Of course, try your best to always model confident behaviour with other people. If you are ever shy yourself, point this out to your child and tell them what strategies you are using to overcome your own shyness. Kids learn the most from watching their parent’s behaviours!