How to Overcome Shyness

Bringing Out the Best in Your Reserved Little One

Does your kid take a little longer to warm up? Here are a few ways to help make social situations a little easier.

Some kids move through life as if it's a stage upon which they were born to perform. They're energized by their peers and forge friendships easily, waving wild jazz hands in the face of anyone they think isn't paying enough attention. Other kids are a bit less thrilled with the hubbub. They do more listening than talking—often getting overshadowed by more outspoken friends and classmates—and typically find the solitude of a quiet corner preferable to being the center of attention.

According to a 2012 Time cover story, shy kids may have fewer friends, but they tend to develop deeper and longer-lasting relationships. They also often think about things more thoroughly before making decisions and are good at working alone for longer periods of time than their extroverted counterparts.

And when it comes right down to it, even the most extroverted child will feel shy from time to time. It's when that shyness dampens your child's self-esteem, however, that it hinders the development of social skills that can become a problem. Here are a few ways you can help your child overcome the butterflies and feel more comfortable with others:

Model Confident Social Behavior

When you're out in public, demonstrate how to greet others and how to engage in polite conversation, so your child becomes comfortable doing the same. At home, act out different scenarios that might result in shy behavior, such as meeting new friends or engaging in a group activity at school. Switch roles so your child can experience both situations. Practice makes the real thing much less scary.

Encourage Participation

Invite your child to participate in social settings as much as they are comfortable without pushing too hard when the offer is met with hesitation. For example, ask your child if she would like to order her own meal at a restaurant. Invite your son to answer the phone at home or hand payment to the cashier at the drugstore.

Give Feedback ... Often

Praise your child for even the smallest achievements, like a smile or a "thank you" that would have otherwise gone unshared. Build confidence by reminding your child of a particularly difficult situation in which she overcame her shyness, reminding her of how proud it made you feel of her achievement. When there's a negative experience, talk about it and discuss ways to avoid the shyness next time.

Listen With Empathy

Encourage your child to talk about the shyness. Be sure to express your empathy by saying something like: "I know how hard it is to feel that way. Sometimes I feel shy, too." It can also be helpful to share a story about a time when you felt shy and had to overcome it. Above all, remind your child that it's okay to feel that way and that you love and accept them no matter what.

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