Child Development Parental Advice

How to help a shy child

Some children seem to be born with effortless confidence and have the innate ability to shine in social situations. However, not all children have this skill and for some, learning to feel comfortable and confident in social situations takes some work and practice.

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Some children seem to be born with effortless confidence and have the innate ability to shine in social situations. However, not all children have this skill and for some, learning to feel comfortable and confident in social situations takes some work and practice. With empathy and support from adults, children who exhibit shyness may be able to become more confident.

Formulate a strategy

It is important to formulate a strategy tailored specifically for your child and ensure all of the immediate caregivers, including parents, grandparents, teachers, nannies or babysitters are informed. Discuss the issue with your child’s teacher, nanny or babysitter to make sure they are aware of it and the strategies they should use.

Avoid labels

There are various strategies which can be used to overcome or manage shyness in children. Try not to label a child as “shy” as it may undermine their confidence and make it harder for them in social situations if they perceive themselves as shy.

Model confident behaviour

Modelling confident behaviour around a child will also help them see how to conduct themselves socially. A caregiver may want to talk to a shy child about experiences they have had with shyness so that they realise it is a normal way to feel. This also provides an opportunity for a parent, babysitter or nanny, to chat about some strategies they have used in the past to overcome times when they have felt shy.

Practise regular socialisation

Learning to be confident when interacting with people can take a lot of practice. Taking a child to familiar activities like playgroups, for example, can be very beneficial as a child will often blossom when they become comfortable at a regular social gathering. A caregiver, like a babysitter or nanny, could also take a child to a neighbourhood playground on a regular basis and encourage the child to play with other children.

New social situations

Gently exposing a child to new social situations is a valuable exercise as well. If a different babysitter or nanny is coming to the child’s home, for example, this is a great opportunity for a child to meet someone new in the safety of familiar surroundings. To approach a shy child, a babysitter might sit at a distance and start playing with some toys and allow the shy child to approach them when they are ready. This also provides the caregiver with an opportunity to apply praise.

Positive praise

Boost your child by praising them when they demonstrate confident behaviour. This is a positive reinforcement strategy that can be used when a child makes eye contact or responds well to someone new.

Remember, shyness is normal behaviour, especially in children who are still developing their confidence. A positive approach that enlists the help of other adults like teachers or babysitters can provide valuable reinforcement. If your child’s shyness is preventing them from attending school or other social gatherings, however, then it may be best to seek advice from a professional.