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shy child girl

How to Help Your Child Overcome Shyness (part 1 or 2)

Like many parents I wonder at the wealth of differences between my two children.  Same genes, same lifestyle and upbringing, yet the way the two look at the world is almost entirely different.  My older is a complete and total extrovert, makes friends instantly and can downright annoy strangers with his chattiness.  My younger is shy, prefers to stay back in the crowd and takes a while to warm up.  Yet both of my boys have a strong, happy presence, each in his own right.

Like many parents I worry about my children.  I worry if my older one’s love of people is going to lead him to dangerous paths later, when peer pressure becomes a significant problem.  I worry if my little one’s shyness will prevent him from embracing life with missed opportunities and delayed regrets.  If there is one thing I am sure of, it’s that shy people do tend to have a harder time socially than outgoing people.  In the recent headlines an extreme example of a shy, introverted teenager Elliot O. Roger fueled by misogynistic influences created a dangerous killer.  I am not implying that all shy people have the potential to become one, but you do have to wonder if these horrible events would have taken place had he only been more outgoing and had an easier time making friends.  There must be a balance in all things and I place a high priority on both teaching my little one to be more outgoing and teaching my older one to be more aware that not all people may have his best interests at heart.

This is the first part of an article presents some tips on teaching your shy child to be more comfortable in new situations:

Tip 1: Start small:
I like to ask my little one to order for himself in a restaurant, to ask him to pay the check in a diner (where you must bring a credit card and check to the front), to ask the wait person for more water or encourage him to say hello to the bus driver.  Although these daily interactions may not mean much to you and I, it does create the skill in our shy children to help them communicate with strangers. Ask when the child is well rested and in a good mood to help introduce this as a positive, happy experience.

Tip 2: Show up EARLY:
One way in which we encourage shy children at Brainy Academy is by asking the parents to get to the class early.  Ideally 15 to 20 minutes before the class starts the child can come in with the parent, get acquainted with the classroom, meet the teachers and get comfortable.  This also creates a situation where the child is the very first person to be in the class and other children are “joining them.”  The worst thing to do is be a late comer to the class.  Have you ever walked into a meeting 5 minutes late, everyone is already there and as you open the door everybody looks at you (unintentionally)?  You know that uncomfortable feeling of being a newcomer to the group?  Now put that into 4 year old’s perspective.  I think there is something evolutionary about not wanting to join a group in progress.  If a child shows up late to the class unless they are very comfortable already I know there will be a problem.

Tip 3: Introduce new situations:
Part of the problem in my household is that everyone who surrounds my little one is someone he has known practically since birth.  He attends a school I own, a class that was taught by his aunt.  B’s grandmother runs the daycare center where he has spent some of his days off school.  He has been accompanying his brother to the soccer program he is currently attending since he was 3 months old.  So on a recent trip to a Cancun Club Med B was super excited to join the kids club.  Of course as excited as he was to hang out with the other children he ran out of the club after me less than 3 minutes later.  I didn’t push it and we came back early next morning.  We walked around their central premises, talked to the teachers, and acquainted ourselves with the surroundings.  After leaving (brief goodbye, no big scene) I observed him for a while and caught him a couple of times walking with the group around the resort.  He seemed quite comfortable.  It might be easier for me to just hang out with him all day, as he can happily play by himself for hours.  But I believe it’s an invaluable experience for him to come into a new situation and learn to be comfortable with an entirely new group of people.  So if you are going to a resort with a kids club, take advantage and your child may thank you for it.  You can also try a group class he or she has never visited before (we offer classes like this at Brainy Academy).  Even a new park can be a huge change for a shy and reserved child and might be a good way to start opening them to new experiences.

Many more tips to come in part 2!

Viktoria Altman
President Brainy Academy

May 29, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments: none | Tags: , , , ,