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Helping the Shy Child Bloom

Shyness is intricately linked to temperament. And some aspects of temperament are hereditary. In many cases, a shy child has at least one parent who is shy. But, not to worry, a shy child does not always grow into a shy adult. Shyness in children is normal. For the most part, it's nothing to worry about. Many children suffer from occasional bouts of shyness, especially in new situations. But, most parents quickly see their children blossom into social creatures that readily interact with their peers.

When is Shyness a Problem?

Shyness may be a problem if it interferes with your child's social development. A child who refuses to speak in social situations and who can't interact with other children in groups, small groups, or one-on-one may be too shy to develop relationships with other children. This type of painful shyness results in so much anxiety that your child may experience loneliness or low self-esteem as a result.

What Can Parents of a Shy Child Do to Help?

The best way to help your child overcome extreme shyness is to gently encourage him to participate in activities with other children. Here are some tips to try with a shy child:

  • Encourage small group or one-on-one activity rather than large group participation.
  • Try non-competitive activities. Competitive activities may make some children feel inadequate and hesitant to participate.
  • Always be ready for a play date. If you take your child to the park, bring a couple of extra toys so that your child has something to share with other children who want to play.
  • Schedule activities at home. Home-based play dates may be less anxiety provoking because they occur in a familiar setting.
  • Schedule a one-on-one play date with a younger child. Some kids may feel more confident if they are older than their playmate. You can also try scheduling a play date with an older child too.

The most important thing you can do to help your child overcome shyness is to talk about it. Don't ridicule or tease your child. And make sure to prepare him for new situations and work him into new settings slowly if possible. In very rare cases, a shy child may need professional intervention. Talk to your child's pediatrician if your child's shyness continues to interfere with his ability to form relationships with other children.