How can you help your child deal with extreme shyness?
Help your shy child lower his or her anxiety level while boosting confidence by following the tips below.
Let your child understand it is okay to experience nervousness and embarrassment in an unfamiliar situation, because all people can feel that on some level, whether it is a small or big emotion.
It is important for parents to explain to their children how beneficial it can be to experience that uncomfortable situation long enough to observe and understand that it is not all as scary as they think.
We as parents should constantly praise and encourage while exposing our children to uncomfortable situations and letting them take the lead as to how and when they take the next step closer to doing things they have been avoiding.
My attitude toward my shy kid had been nonchalant until it surfaced as an issue
I have an extremely shy child myself. For a long time, I saw it as just a phase she would eventually outgrow. She is a goofball as well as one big chatterbox at home. Also, I was a very shy girl early in my life, always hiding behind my mom’s legs. But I eventually tackled my shyness and went on to broadcast the daily announcements to hundreds of students each day at school. Although I still consider myself an introvert, once I overcame my fear, I managed countless performances and presentations throughout school and university. I had a belief that my little girl could overcome her shyness in time.
But then the problem hit us hard as soon as my daughter entered the daycare world. The institution only met the shy side of my girl, besides which, the unstable class changes and high turnover rate of the teachers did not give her time to get used to the place. To make matters worse, she was frequently absent during the cold season, which prevented her from getting consistent exposure to the new environment and new people.
In reality, when our shy kids cannot fight off that shyness and are unable to express their thoughts and interact with people, others could look at it as problematic. Sadly, our society does not always give all children enough time to develop in their lacking areas, but measures them against a standardized chart. My daughter did not reach the average expectations at her daycare, and there were many calls and meetings where diagnostic terms were raised in reference to my child. It was a big learning experience and a challenge for our family.
Once I was aware that my child’s shyness was raising concerns around her, I couldn’t wait a minute longer to help my child however I could. I researched perpetually, reading books and articles related to the subject while adopting new strategies that I had gathered. It was a slow process, but satisfying to see improvement at each step. And then this pandemic hit.
It has been another big challenge for shy children and their parents, since our kids need a lot of exposure to new environments and socialization in larger groups. But the important thing is that children are more resilient and stronger than we think, and as long as we parents are there to help them overcome their fears and develop their lacking skills, they will eventually bloom and thrive.
Let’s explore some solutions that could help your shy children thrive
Check anxiety level and prepare ahead of time before important events
Shy children tend to be more anxious than outgoing children. They are cautious and sensitive by nature, but anxiety is a major setback that makes it harder for them to freely express themselves in new groups and unfamiliar environments.
There are many ways to reduce a shy child’s anxiety, but the most important thing is to let them learn by experience. Ironically, anxiety is tricky to manage unless our brain understands that our worries are not accurate pictures of real situations. So, if we expose our children to the situation they will realize for themselves that their fear is not realistic. As long as they are not criticized or laughed at during this process, they will lower their anxiety pretty effectively.
Do not push, and let your child take the lead
If we bring our children face-to-face with a situation that makes them feel awkward or distressed, do not demand your child to do things he or she is not comfortable with. Don’t say, “Go say hi,” or, “Why don’t you go over there and play with those kids?”
Instead, hold your child’s hand or put your hand on your child’s shoulder to soothe that spiking anxiety, and let your child take time to absorb the surrounding environment. If your child pulls you close to a nearby group of kids so he or she can join in the game, follow that lead. You are giving your child enough time to get used to the environment and let his or her brain realize it is not that embarrassing to be around new kids, or blend with a big group.
Experience – let your child observe long enough to gather information and lower their guard
As I briefly touched on earlier, your child needs to be exposed to the situation he or she feels anxious about. Your role as a parent is to identify the situations that trigger your child’s anxiety and expose him or her to the situations or places gradually, as you monitor your child’s progress.
For example, if your child cannot play or talk around a big group of kids at a playground, but is able to talk and do his or her thing in a small group, then choose a less busy time to visit that place, and gradually introduce your child to the playground at slightly busier and more crowded times. Your child who was never able to interact with other kids might hesitate at a ball that has rolled near him, without a word. But after a few weeks, he might join a game of chase with two or three kids, and then, later on, use one or two words to communicate with new kids. But remember, it has to be gradual.
Boost confidence – let your child experience fulfillment and the thrill of victory
Can you imagine doing something you dread that not only makes you uncomfortable, but is also boring? So, when you encourage your shy child to join a group or be present in a new environment, there has to be some reward, whether it turns out to be loads of fun in the end, or lead to some sense of achievement.
Time and patience
But what happens if there is no progress after you have patiently waited, while constantly introducing your child to a range of new environments? As long as your child has gradual progress in the long term, some flat days of little or no progress – or even regression – are totally acceptable, as we are all humans following a learning curve, and we need time to process information.
Do not pressure your child but continuously praise and encourage your child’s progress. And if you want to use some sort of reward system, be sure to focus on motivating your child, not on pressuring him or her to do things.
For example, you might put it as, “Since you’re doing so well at greeting our neighbours, if you can keep it up, I’ll let you pick one lego set from the ones we saw at the store.” Do not pressure your child by saying, “If you want to get that lego set, then you’ll have to say hi to our neighbour every day for a week without fail.”
What causes extreme shyness in a child?
According to the article How To Support Your Shy Child by WebMD.com, there are several factors. It could be from personality traits or genetic factors your child is born with, or family dynamics that limit your child’s opportunities to interact in a big group or with a variety of people, or your child’s fear of failure and harsh criticism.
We are not trying here to fix our shy children to be outgoing and change their personality, but to simply understand their fear and help them to express themselves more clearly by overcoming their anxiety. That way our shy kids will be able to thrive without stressing themselves out trying to be someone they are not, or getting further discouraged that they are not good enough or something is wrong with them, which would lower their self-esteem and undermine their self-confidence.
The important thing is we can help our shy child clearly express his or her thoughts without dropping their heads or remaining silent – by gradually exposing them to the situation they are avoiding, and encouraging them to interact.
Let’s help our shy kids overcome their fears and anxiety and be able to thrive anywhere they go, by being their cheerleader and a lantern on their challenging journey, so they can open themselves to the world.