Have a shy little one on your hands? Read on.
Despite freely mingling with her peers and teachers, my three-and-a-half-year-old is still shy when I introduce her to new company. She either starts asking to go home or to leave the place immediately. How can I help her?
There are quite a few things that parents can do to help their kids overcome their shyness and learn to be more confident with new people and situations.
Don’t Label Your Child
Try to describe your child as ‘slow to warm up’ rather than ‘shy’. If other people say she is ‘shy’, gently correct them in front of your child. For example: “Jenny takes some time to warm up. She will be happy to play once she is comfortable.”
Showing empathy can help your child to feel understood and better able to control their fear when they are afraid to interact with others. If your child refuses to go into the pool for swimming lessons, for example, you could say, “I sense that you are afraid of going into the water. I was afraid too when I had to go into the pool for my swimming lessons.”
Model Outgoing Behaviour
Model outgoing behaviour by taking the initiative to speak to other parents, children, or invite people to your home.
Encourage your child to interact with children his or her own age. For example, “Say hi to Tom” or “Wave goodbye”. A good strategy for parents to engage in is called triangulation. For example, you say to another child, “I like your sweater” and then asks your own child, “Don’t you think her sweater is nice?” or “I like the dog that you are drawing” and to your own child, “What’s your favourite dog?” Aim for gradual improvement with repeated effort. It’s important to not push the child too hard, or more resistance will be created.
One effective way that parents can help their kids to overcome their shyness is with role playing to practice social skills. Parents can role play what to say, what to do and what to expect by acting out the roles themselves or with puppets.
Set Goals and Measure Progress
Parents can set goals with kids, such as saying one word to a new person every day or playing (silently) with another child. You can chart your child’s progress at home with stars or smiley face stickers which the children can put up themselves. Letting your child know in advance what the reward is can motivate her to accomplish the goal.
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