Perhaps, when you drop off your preschooler at his or her school, it seems as though every child in the group eagerly begins greeting one another and engaging in play – all, that is, except yours. Yours is the shy child.
Maybe you’re shy yourself and so you don’t want your child to struggle to make friends, or maybe you’re the life of the party and so you can’t understand why your little one isn’t more like you. In either case, it’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with a child – or anyone else for that matter – because he or she is shy. It’s a personality trait, not a problem.
To quote Dr. Sears, “Some of the nicest people I’ve ever known are shy. These persons tend to be attentive listeners, private people who exude a friendly welcome even without saying a word . . . There is no need to say apologetically, ‘He’s a shy child,’ especially in front of your little one. There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with being shy.”
That said, you want your shy preschooler to settle in and be comfortable with others, so here are some tips.
Allow adjustment time
Education.com talks to Bernardo J. Carducci, founder of the Shyness Research Institute. He suggests trial runs of new experiences, since shy people typically need time to adjust to novel situations. So, he recommends, show your child where to hang her coat at preschool. Show her where she’ll sit, and where she will see you waiting for her at the end of the day. Introduce her to teachers and other adults that she’ll see at school at a time when other children aren’t crowding around them.
Empathize, don’t shame
Dr. Laura Markham reminds a parent to empathize with his child’s worries. This will help him to deal with his concerns and it also will help him to develop sympathy towards others, which will “enhance his social skills and help him connect with others.” Meanwhile, if you give your child the impression that there is something wrong with him, he’ll only feel more insecure, which will compound any socialization issues.
Practice social skills
WebMD.com recommends practice, practice, practice. In a store, the article recommends, let your child pay the cashier. If at a restaurant, let her order her own meal. Invite friends over and let them play together.
Also, offer praise for positive steps, such as saying “hello” to someone. If your child freezes in front of someone, suggest tips (when you’re alone) for next time that might help.
And, if you find yourself worrying when your child is “still shy,” read this New York Times piece that shares that approximately half of older youth (ages 13 to 18) consider themselves shy. So, your child is not alone – and, in most instances, it’s simply a personality trait along the social spectrum.
Finally, as HealthyChildren.org points out, in rarer instances, a child may be so shy that it’s disabling. If you’ve tried the various methods recommended by experts and shyness is still causing anxiety for your child, consider reaching out for more help. Your doctor can help you find appropriate ways to get your child evaluated so that you can help him or her to adjust.
If you’re looking for a quality affordable preschool/child care program that provides the types of educational programs and enrichment experiences that help prepare your child for K-12, contact the Horizon Education Center in your neighborhood.