As a toddler, your timid child ducked behind your legs to hide from strangers. Now you worry that your child's shyness will isolate him from his peers and leave him anxious and lonely. While there are things you can do to help your child overcome his timidity, it's also important to recognize that shyness is simply a personality trait in some individuals. Well-developed shy children have a deep inner peace, a healthy sense of self-worth and an aptitude for making others feel at ease, according to AskDrSears.com. Conversely, if your child acts out, refuses to make eye-contact, has a low self-esteem and seems angry, his shyness may be a problem. Consult your child's pediatrician if you are concerned about behavioral issues.
Avoid giving your child a label. When your timid child refuses to speak at a family gathering, it can be tempting to offer an "Oh, he's just shy" by way of excuse. However, such statements will make your child feel as if there is something wrong with him and may make him retreat further.
Role play basic social skills. For timid kids, initiating a conversation or joining in a game at recess can be terrifying. Practice smiling, establishing eye contact and small talk. Pretend you are at a play date or birthday party and have your child rehearse his introduction.
Offer a small incentive for social interaction. Ruth Peters, Ph.D., founder of RuthPeters.com, a website that focuses on child development, suggests giving your child 10 pennies in the morning. Instruct your child to move a penny from one pocket to the other every time he greets a classmate. If, at the end of the day, he's moved all of the pennies, reward him with a treat.
Model outgoing behavior. Engage the cashier at the grocery store in a conversation, smile at your next-door neighbor and offer to help a friend with yard work. Your timid child will learn a lot from watching the way you interact with others.
Teach your child the value of close friendships. A timid child may only form one or two friendships at school, and that is OK. Remind your child that popularity is transient, but good friends are friends for life.
Provide opportunities for your child to interact with others in small groups. Ask your child to invite one or two friends over to play after school. Although extending the invitation will take courage, your child may relax enough to enjoy the play date in the safety of his own home.
Give your child a chance to shine, but don't put him on the spot. For instance, forcing your musically inclined child to perform in a public recital is a recipe for disaster. However, you could ask him if he would be willing to share his talent with a small group of residents at the local nursing home. Feeling valued may help him to overcome his timidity.
Sudden timidity may be a symptom of some larger problem. For instance, your child may begin to withdraw from social interaction if he is a victim of bullying.