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Painfully Shy Kids

Most people experience a bit of shyness at some point in their lives. However, it can be painful to watch a shy child struggle to connect with others. A study found that 40% of children are shy! Some are born with the tendency to be shy while others become shy as they get older and begin to interact with people in their lives. Different social situations can create periodic episodes of shyness. However, it can be a problem when shyness interferes with social relationships, school, or other areas of your child's life.

Why does shyness occur?

  • Is shyness inherited or learned? There is no definitive research proving that shyness is caused by hereditary factors alone. Shyness may be a learned behavior stemming from being raised by shy parents. Shy parents typically don't model appropriate social skills. They may also lack awareness of practical social adeptness which makes it difficult for them to teach their own kids.
  • Temperament - a Harvard Psychologist found that 1 out of 5 children is born with the tendency to be inhibited, called "inhibited temperament." This basically means that some kids come into the world more sensitive to stimuli (noise, people, touch etc.). Of course, shy kids carry these sensitivities into their social world.
  • Parenting style - over protective, inconsistent parenting, fear inducing parenting can cause insecurities.
  • Consistently exposed to difficult social situations where the child is teased or picked on.

10 Practical Tips to Help your Shy Child:

  • Talk to your kids. Stay open, listen, and make sure your child feels safe enough to vent his feelings. Discuss what scares him about being in social situations. Being there for him will help you connect with him on a deeper level. This will provide an experience of intimacy for you child.
  • Help your child open up and take risks in social situations. Expose him to various social environments by getting him involved in activities, sports, and clubs. Persuade him to slowly take chances to share and socially engage his friends.
  • Role play to practice difficult social situations, social skills, and non-shy behaviors like making eye contact, speaking to adults, or making introductions.
  • Acknowledge and praise your child when he begins to take risks and move into uncomfortable social territory.
  • Teach social skills and tools to help your child feel comfortable in his own skin around others. This will serve him well in all areas of his life. Communication and assertiveness skills are also important to demonstrate.
  • Don't label your child as shy. It can be very difficult for him to break out of a label. In some cases, children will live up to what is expected of them.
  • Increase self-esteem and confidence by finding ways for your child to succeed.
  • Share some of your own difficult experiences in connecting with others. Sharing will normalize your child's experiences and help him to not feel alone or too different.
  • Keep a positive vision for your child to have healthy, happy, and successful relationships.
  • Get outside support if your child's shyness becomes paralyzing for him and interferes with important areas of his life.

Most people overcome shyness without intervention. However, and aware and conscientious parent can make the transition from shy child to social adult easier and far less painful.