How to Help a Shy Child

Three Methods:Teaching Your Child Social SkillsMaking Your Child Feel Comfortable Around OthersBuilding Your Child’s Self Esteem

Shyness is very common among children and should not be seen as a negative trait. Though your child may struggle to interact and socialize around other children and adults, especially people she does not know, this does not mean there is something wrong with her or that she is deficient in some way.[1] You can help her cope with her shyness by teaching her social skills, doing your part to make her feel comfortable interacting with others, and building her self-esteem so she has the confidence to step out of her shyness.

Method 1
Teaching Your Child Social Skills

  1. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 1
    Role play social situations with her. Make a game out of learning social skills by sitting down with your child for a few minutes every day and role playing social situations. Take the role of someone new and instruct your child on how to greet someone. This means making eye contact, smiling, and shaking someone’s hand. You can encourage your spouse and any siblings to also participate in the game. The more individuals your child practices with, the more comfortable she will get with social skills.[2]
    • You can also encourage your child to make small talk with you as part of the game. This means practicing saying “Hello” and “How are you?” as well as responses like “I’m great, thanks” or “I’m doing good, thank you”.
  2. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 2
    Become an active listeneractive listening.Be attentive to what your child is speaking.One of the reasons shy children tend to withhold from conversing is due to fear of being embarrassed or laughed at. When your child is talking about something give him/her your full attention.refrain from judging them them or laughing at them. They need to feel understood and accepted and to know that others care about them.[3]
    • Encourage your child to start conversation by asking your child an open ended question, such as, “What did you do at school today?” She may then tell you about her math test, her chemistry lab, and the special lunch for Heritage Day. Listen as she speaks to you, nodding and maintaining eye contact with her.
    • When she is done speaking, respond to her by saying, “What I hear you saying is…” and then summarize what she told you in your own words. Once you’re done speaking, ask her if you listened to her correctly. If she says yes, you can comment on her day and offer any advice.
    • Then, switch roles and tell your child about your day. Let her sum up what you said in her own words and agree that she listened correctly. This will allow her to model her behavior after yours and get a sense of how active listening works.
  3. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 3
    Help her practice social skill words. Social skill words are terms that your child can use to enter social situations in a clear and simple way. Phrases like, “Can I play, too?” or “Mind if I join you?” allow your child to enter a conversation or a play date in a friendly way. Teach her to lean on these phrases so she can pull them out easily in real life situations.[4]
    • Other social skill terms like “Hello”, “Bye”, “Please”, “Thank you”, are also useful terms for any social situations she may face.
  4. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 4
    Model healthy social behavior when you are around her and others. Be an example for your child. This means being friendly and open around new people, greeting them, and making eye contact with them.[5]
    • Doing this will limit to possibility of her developing “stranger danger”, where she has a fear of strangers and people she does not know. While you should teach her to be cautious around new people, you should also show her that you can have a conversation and engage with strangers just like you would anyone else.

Method 2
Making Your Child Feel Comfortable Around Others

  1. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 5
    Allow your child to observe the situation before she enters it. Rather than shame your child for her shyness, you should take a supportive role. This means being aware of her social needs and responding to them in kind. Doing this will be much more effective than trying to force her to socialize or be more outgoing.[6]
    • Keep an eye on your child when she is in a social situation, such as with other kids on the playground or around other adults at the dinner table, and note her body language. Is she avoiding eye contact and turning her body inward? Does she seem unengaged or distracted?
    • Respond to this by letting her take a minute to assess the situation. Be supportive by making eye contact with her or smiling at her encouragingly. Don’t rush her into socializing or participating in the conversation.
    • You can also pull her aside and talk to her one on one to ensure she feels comfortable. Or, you can take a more hands off approach and allow her to listen to what is being said, rather than force her to respond.
  2. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 6
    Practice a big speech or performance with her beforehand. Many shy children become anxious and stressed when they have to present a big speech or do a performance in front of others. Help her cope with this by practicing her speech with her one on one beforehand.After she is comfortable with this, take the help of other family members and gather a small audience and encourage her to perform in front of them. This is a great way to help the child overcome stage fear. Ask the family members before hand not to laugh at her mistakes and to give encouraging nods through her speech [7]
    • You may also try to integrate the speech or performance in your daily routine. For example, you can play the song she may be dancing to, on the drive to school or take some time before bed to practice key sections of her speech. Doing this will help her become more comfortable with her upcoming presentation and reduce her feelings of shyness.
  3. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 7
    Talk about big social gatherings and prepare for it together. Support your shy child by discussing any big social gatherings with family or friends a few days before they happen. This way, you can talk about who will be there and who she can talk to at the event. You can also put her at ease by preparing her for what to expect in terms of the itinerary for the event or any special activities planned as part of the event.[8]
    • For example, if you are throwing a surprise party for her grandparents, you should sit her down and let her know there will fifty people in the house and mention few familiar names she may be comfortable around. You can also let her know there will be balloons, cake, and presents so she knows what to expect on the day of the party.
  4. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 8
    Give your child a task or role when she is around a big group of people so that she doesnt feel clueless and left out.. Giving your child a task to focus on when she is around a big group can help her to steady her nerves and feel less pressure to socialize on her own.[9]
    • This could be collecting everyone’s coats at the door or showing everyone into the dining room. You could also encourage her to help set the table before dinner or organize the presents at a party. These types of tasks will help her stay focused and feel more comfortable around a big group.
  5. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 9
    Encourage one on one play with other children. Most shy children do better one on one, especially when they are playing with other children. You could set up playdates with another child in her class that she gets along with and make them a weekly or bi-monthly occurrence so she is able to socialize on a consistent basis. You could also suggest that she join a club or a class with one close friend to expand her social group in a safe and comfortable way.[10]
  6. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 10
    Let your child play with children who are younger. Some shy children are less intimidated around children who are younger than them. Encourage your shy child to play with younger children in the neighborhood or younger siblings at home.[11]

Method 3
Building Your Child’s Self Esteem

  1. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 11
    Praise your child when you notice her social skills. Building your child’s self esteem will help your child to feel accepted and valued, which may help her become more comfortable around others. Make sure you praise your child when you notice she is practicing healthy social skills and interacting with others in a proactive way.[12]
    • For example, you may compliment her on her conversation with a family member at a big family dinner. You may say, “Aunt Jane was telling me how much she enjoyed talking with you.”
  2. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 12
    Give her positive reinforcement in front of others. Doing this will show her that she is capable and build up her self esteem. This could be a simple comment like, “How nice of you to ask how Grandma is doing”, or an encouraging statement like, “Tell your Dad what you told me today.” Positive reinforcement will also let her know that you support her and are an ally for her.[13]
  3. Image titled Help a Shy Child Step 13
    Encourage her to pursue hobbies or passions she is confident in and enjoys. Get your child to focus on personal self development and encourage her to take up swimming if she seems to enjoy the water or to take up painting if she seems to enjoy sketching and drawing. Finding something she is good at will make she feel less self-conscious and help to boost her confidence.[14]
    • If your child is struggling to identify a passion or hobby she might enjoy, you can help her by suggesting that she think about a skill she is good at or enjoys. This could be watching basketball games on television or baking at home. You may then suggest that she try to play basketball or take a baking class. Throw out suggestions and see if she responds to any of them.
    • You can also have a conversation with your child where you ask her what she likes doing the most or what skill she would like to learn. You may then be able to work together to find a hobby or passion she can pursue.

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Fears and Phobias