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Shyness is not an uncommon trait. In today’s society where being outgoing and gregarious is rewarded, it’s hard to be a shy kid or adult. I wasn’t a shy kid to begin with but after a few bad experiences at 11, I went into my shell. I became a super-shy teenager. As a psychologist, I have a soft spot for kids and teens who are anxious. It’s probably because I have a deeper understanding from a personal standpoint of what it is like. It’s not just the research that says you can overcome shyness and social anxiety but my own personal experiences. In that way, it makes me a better therapist.
If you have a shy child, here are some things you can do to help them cope.
Empathise, not shame: Empathise and validate your child’s fears. Shaming them or telling them off for being shy is the worst possible way to help them manage their shyness. Punishing them for not socialising is also not the answer.
Role playing: For some kids, shyness or social anxiety can be due to a fear of saying the wrong things in a social situation. To help them get over this fear, it is helpful to role play social situations with them at home. You can do this with dolls and toys or even pretending to be their favourite Harry Potter characters.
Gradual exposure: Avoidance is the automatic response to something we fear. A shy child will tend to avoid social situations and giving in to that avoidance, only makes the shyness and anxiety worse. Instead, you can start gradually exposing your child to social situations. It could be a small play date at your home with three other kids and then slowly work your way up to your child being able to attend parties at others’ places. The more success they achieve in the beginning, the quicker they will climb up their fear ladder.
Model confident behaviour: Children look up to their parents as role models. If you are shy yourself and avoid social situations, it may be harder to motivate your child to face their fears. On the other hand, if you can socialise at parties or host get-togethers, they are more likely to follow your lead.
Teach them about quality over quantity: In the end, remind your child that having one or two good friends is better than having ten friends who may not mean a lot. While they can learn to socialise with people, it doesn’t mean they have to befriend all of them.
Of course, if your child’s shyness is more than just shyness and is closer to social anxiety, it would be beneficial to have them see a child psychologist so as to help them manage their fears.
Have you had to deal with shyness in yourself or your children?
What did you do?
Until next time,