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5 Ways to Help a Shy Child

5 Ways to Help a Shy Child

"Does anyone else out there have an extremely shy child?" asks Circle of Moms member Briana. She worries that her six-year-old daughter doesn’t want to do things that other kids her age do. "I can't figure out what to do to make her any less shy and want to join in," Briana frets.

It used to be that people assumed a shy child would outgrow her shyness. But a recent study by researchers at Vanderbilt University published in the February 2012 journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience suggests this isn't true. It seems shyness is a personality trait that is determined by the unique way a person’s brain gets used to the unfamiliar.

If shyness is a personality trait, is it possible to help your socially hesitant child become more involved and less on the sidelines? While you can’t change shy, there are some ways to approach and coach your child to accept new situations with a little more ease. Here I've rounded up five of them, as shared by Circle of Moms members.


1. Avoid Labeling Your Child

The more you tell your child or the people around her that she's "just shy" as a way to explain her behavior, the more likely it is that she'll believe something essential is wrong with her, says Alison S. Renowned pediatrician and parenting expert Dr. William Sears says that if you must describe your child’s behavior, try using more neutral words like "private" or "reserved."

2. Acknowledge Your Child's Discomfort

Your child knows she's not as outgoing as other kids and others know it, too, so there’s no point in pretending that it’s not true. Instead, says mom Megan H., "Just keep encouraging her that she is normal and not to worry so much about it."


3. Continue Introducing New Experiences

Sheltering a shy child from new experiences doesn’t help her learn how to cope with them, but nor does forcing her to jump right in. In fact, this approach can cause extreme anxiety. Keep to a middle ground, suggests several Circle of Moms members. 

As Meyrha M. recommends, try staying with your child at birthday parties or sports practices until she's a little more comfortable. Judith B. didn’t push her son to join extracurricular activities, but did sign him up for language lessons to help him gain some independence.

4. Help Build Self-Esteem

Tara says it’s not her daughter’s shyness that bothers her as much as the concern that she will be a "follower" who's unable to stick up for herself. It’s a worry that many moms of shy children share, but it’s not insurmountable. 

As parenting coach and RoundUp contributor Sharon Silver points out in her article, The Key to Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem, they key is to use specific praise to tell your child exactly what she's done well in a situation.

You can also help build a shy child's self esteen by setting up situations in which she is sure to succeed. For instance, a member named Tara has her child order her own drink and food at restaurants. She says this is helping her gain some independence and that she is gradually becoming less shy and more comfortable in unfmiliar situations.


5. Teach Basic Social Skills

For kids who are painfully shy, even the most basic social skills are difficult to manage. Go slow: start simply by expecting your child to look up when she's speaking to you, and to speak loud enough to be heard. Once she's comfortable doing so with you, you can ask her to apply these social skills when she's around familiar people.

As your shy child gets older, Alison S. suggests trying to put her in situations where she has to practice her social skills. Both Alison and another member, Rebecca P., have found that a drama class or club is a good place to start.

Shyness may be biological, but it doesn’t have to hem in your child's entire future. With a little understanding and support, she will find her way. It just might take a little bit longer.

Related Reading: Five Friendship Problems Kids Face and How to Help

Image Source: Tim Samoff via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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