It can be surprisingly tough for a parent to manage having a shy child. But ‘shy’ isn’t necessarily a personality type. It can also be a way of managing the world and mediating pressuring situations. So how can we think more carefully about what may be going on for that shy kid and how can we help them take some calculated risks, make new friends and discover the world in new ways?

First: Check in with yourself

Having a shy child can be stressful. It’s way easier having your kid run ahead of you, ripe and ready to entertain themselves. If we’re honest, an outgoing child gives you a bit of a break and places a little less responsibility on you. Sometimes you may catch yourself even rolling your eyes at a mom-friend while your child clings onto you for dear life; we’ve all been there! But this is a sign that you also need someone to know just how hard it is for you, and indicates that you need an outlet too. If you can be honest with yourself about how you really feel about your child’s shyness, and find a better outlet for this frustration (like talk therapy) then you will have a lot more headspace when your child needs you in an overwhelming situation. Having a shy child can feel taxing and you need to ensure you have the energy required when those sticky situations arise.

Rethink labels

Try to avoid labelling your child. Saying things like “He’s our shy one” or “She’s our little beauty”,  shapes who we are and what we think we can become. Try to find ways to talk about your child’s behaviour without giving limiting labels that they might carry around for years to come. This may play out for example at a birthday party where rather than saying, “Of course you don’t like being at birthday parties—you’re shy!” Instead, say something like, “It looks like you’re feeling a little uneasy around all those kids.”

See your child as a whole

You may have noticed that when your child is at home, s/he is a lively little comic, but when s/he’s out in public, is very quiet. How great is that! Your child has found ways to express different parts of him/herself in different ways. It is really normal that they may act in different ways based on how calm and at ease they are. So rather help your kid feel better about who they are. Look for small, private places like an art class or library programme where s/he can practise social skills in a more reasonable setting. It’s easier for many shy kids to talk to other kids when they don’t have to deal with all the noise and chaos in the classroom or at a party.

Another option is for your child to choose three friends with whom they would like to play. Then, try to plan a trip to the park or an ice cream place after school to see if they discover a link.  Talk to the teacher. She might pair up students with “study buddies” so that they can work on tasks together from time to time. These one-on-one games can also help kids get to know each other more naturally and without the added pressure of a play date.

Avoid controlling things

If your child hates being on stage, don’t force it. Rather encourage your shy child to dance in a small weekly class, without making a big fuss about the end-of-year concert. This will help your child get to know the other kids, and they will bond through loving the activity itself. Kids’ self-esteem naturally grows when they know they feel seen, loved, and respected just the way they are. What does s/he like to do when they are not at school? Help your child build a strong sense of who they are by offering different chances to show off unique skills and abilities, like taking care of animals, learning a sport, or cooking.

The bottom line

Each child shows up differently. Some are fiery and outgoing, while others are more sensitive and quiet. Most of them switch between the two, based on the situation and the people they’re with. With any luck, these tips will help your kid get over the awkwardness of meeting new people, and even if their circle is small, the hope is that it is genuine, guilt-free with meaningful connections in place. At the end of the day the most important thing is that your child experiences the world as an accepting place; ready to help them discover themselves, when they’re good and ready.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *