Did you ever wish your child could walk up to a stranger, casually strike up a polite conversation, and enjoy the interaction? Although there are many children who never shy away from strangers, some parents are concerned about their children being too quiet and actively avoiding interaction with others.
You might wonder why your child can’t be easy around others, like even his or her siblings and parents. If your child’s lack of interaction worries you, here is good news for you. According to studies, most children outgrow their shyness after age 7. But if you are still concerned, here are some ways you can approach your child’s adversity towards interaction with others.
Reasons why your child struggles to interact with others
Shyness is commonly observed in younger children under the age of 6. According to studies, most children who exhibit shyness and have difficulty interacting with others at this time eventually outgrow their timidity.
Your child might be a born introvert who enjoys alone time. If this is your child’s personality, it will be hard to change with any amount of trying or help.
3. Experiences of embarrassment or harsh criticism
If your child has ever experienced traumatic humiliation or been exposed to continuous harsh criticisms, they can develop a fear of public shame.
4. Lack of experience and exposure
It is important for children to experience bigger groups of people while doing fun and exciting activities. By doing so, kids can gradually understand that strangers and bigger crowds are nothing to fear, but that they offer a chance to meet interesting people and experience new things.
5. Timid parents
Younger children tend to observe their parents from an early age, reading their expressions and interpreting their feelings. If you get shy and tend to avoid people in general, your little one could wind up adopting the same behaviour in imitation of your interaction with others.
What do shy children look like at school?
1. Avoid eye contact with teachers and peers
When your child feels uncomfortable dealing with others, they tend to avoid eye contact.
2. Respond in whispers or murmurs
A child feeling shy around others will speak quietly or even murmur words in fear of their voice being heard by others.
3. Spend a lot of time in their seat
Shy children spend a lot of time at their desks alone, doodling and observing others secretly, to limit the chance of interaction. They typically do not have many friends to interact with at school, and their desk becomes a safe haven.
4. Difficulty making many friends
Kids who struggle interacting with others might naturally be inclined to stick with a small number of friends. Having fewer friends is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can limit the social circle and promote a tendency to rely solely on those few friends.
If your child only manages to get close to one or two friends during the course of the school year, it can put him or her at a disadvantage if, for example, one of those friends moves away or finds a closer friend.
5. Missed opportunities to unlock potential skills or talents
If a child is too shy to interact with others, they could be missing out on opportunities to show off the things they are good at and develop social skills. A school is a perfect place for children to develop their social skills and sow the seeds of their future careers. The ability to persuade others by expressing an opinion—and showing the merit of an idea through logical reasoning—is a crucial skill set that involves far more than simple confidence.
Announcing that your child is shy not only gives him or her an excuse to abstain from interaction, but even demotivates them from attempting to become more interactive.– Balance in Wonderland –
What can parents do to help a shy child at home?
1. Exposure to bigger groups of people
Provide access to environments where your shy child can be exposed to bigger groups naturally. You can start with inviting a small number of close friends into your home, gradually increasing the number of people and encouraging your child to participate in activities with the group. Later on, you can expand to bigger group activities like dancing or choir.
2. Encourage performance
One of the best ways to overcome stage fright and shyness is to experience rewards after a good performance. The reward can be as simple as applause or something more tangible, which will trigger a feeling of achievement after enduring the fear of embarrassment. Facing the spotlight is the surest way to overcome shyness.
But how do you convince your timid child to stand in front of people in order to experience that?
It can be done through something as simple as submitting work that they have created at home or at school—such as writing, crafting, experiments or drawing—and receiving awards in front of their peers. Or it could be something they need to practice for many hours in private, like an instrument or dance, which they can then perform in front of an audience in autopilot mode.
3. Never label your child as shy
Announcing that your child is shy not only gives him or her an excuse to abstain from interaction, but even demotivates them from attempting to become more interactive. Never state your child’s shyness openly in public. Instead, if you feel uncomfortable at the thought that others might think your child is rude or purposely ignoring them, state that your child is working on greeting others.
4. Talk about the benefits of socializing
Even if your child avoids interacting with others or standing in front of peers, pointing out the positive side of socializing can help motivate your child. Especially if your child has a competitive side or a goal-oriented temperment, it is highly likely that knowing the benefits of socializing will incentivize your child to overcome uncomfortable feelings in order to achieve their goals.
5. Document their days in video and pictures
It is a good idea to document family moments and share them periodically with your children. Seeing how they act and talk can work like looking into a mirror, helping them to adjust their posture and expressions to bolster their confidence.
Letting them observe themselves from a third person perspective can give them a deeper insight about themselves. Seeing themselves being perfectly normal can work as a motivational boost and make them more comfortable with getting close to people.
If you are concerned about your child’s inability to interact well with others, remember that more often than not, time will solve that problem in younger children.
But if your child is older than 7 and still struggles at socializing with others, never label your child as “a shy kid”.
Instead, you can help by exposing them to bigger groups while finding opportunities for them to perform in public, talking about the benefits of interacting with others, and showing them their interaction with close family through video and photos.
The most important thing is that your child should not avoid interacting with others out of fear, but this will require your help and encouragement to improve. Help your children recognize the many benefits, fun and fulfillment that socializing can bring. This will allow them to learn through experience and overcome their fear gradually on their own.
You might also be interested in reading the articles below:
- 7 best activities for a shy child, and how to help your shy kid participate more in school
- 7 symptoms of a highly sensitive child and how to parent them without daily struggles
- Step-by-step guide to treating children’s anxiety at home, and things to know before getting started