BEHAVIOUR

A Parent’s Guide to Dealing With Shyness in Children

Contents

  1. What is shyness?
  2. What causes a person to be shy?
  3. At what age do children become shy? 
  4. When is shyness in children a reason to worry?
  5. Signs of shyness
  6. How can I help my child overcome shyness?

If you have a child who might seem uninterested in activities kids their age are engaged in, or if they have a hard time making friends in new environments, you may be concerned that they’re being affected by shyness. As a parent, it’s a good idea to adapt your parenting style to offer the best support to shy kids and toddlers. Let’s take a closer look at how shyness in children manifests, and how you can help your shy child come out of their shell.

 

What is shyness? 

 

Shyness is a feeling of discomfort a person may experience when they’re faced with a social situation, especially one that may be unfamiliar. Shyness in children is a very common trait, and it occurs in adults too. Many kids naturally outgrow shyness, but some carry it with them into adulthood. Some people struggle with social anxiety and not just shyness – this can be the case for both kids and adults. 

Parents are often concerned when they realise their child is shy and search for different ways to encourage them to become more outgoing, but it’s important not to push your shy child to do anything they’re not comfortable with. Some kids may become shy because of situations that they experience, while some just have it embedded in their personality

 

What causes a person to be shy?

 

There isn’t any one specific cause for shyness – shyness is usually due to a combination of different things. There is no specific gene that is responsible for shyness, but there’s no doubt that it’s a present trait in a large number of people, especially in children. Shyness can be as a result of nature (genetics), nurture (external influence) or both, and it can change as a person grows older and matures. 

If you’re a parent with a shy child, the good news is that shyness in children is very common and usually not something you need to worry too much about. It’s perfectly normal to see shy toddlers and kids, and most people don’t remain shy their entire life. Most children will at some point display signs of shyness, and sometimes it’s just a phase that will go away on its own. 

Shyness in kids can also be as a result of a child’s upbringing at home. If a child isn’t exposed to meeting new people or going into new environments, this can certainly contribute to them being shy when they come face to face with unfamiliar environments.

In cases like this, when the child eventually experiences life changes such as starting a new school, meeting family for the first time or just going to a big playground, it may be more difficult for them to adjust compared with a child who has been exposed to more social situations. 

 

At what age do children become shy? 

 

Shyness can start at a very young age, and you can see signs of a shy baby as early as in their infancy. Sometimes, you won’t identify signs of shyness in a child until they get a little older.

Shy toddlers are very common, and it’s natural for children of this age to take a little while to warm up in unfamiliar environments and people. Parents may worry about their toddler not mixing with others, but most shy toddlers and kids will warm up as they become more comfortable in their new surroundings. 😊

For a lot of shy children, shyness comes as they become more aware of themselves and their different environments. Some kids may be very outgoing around familiar people and in familiar environments, but shy away from persons they don’t know very well. Small children being shy in terms of avoiding eye contact, hiding behind or clinging to their parents or becoming quiet at first in a new situation is perfectly natural. 

Being shy at a young age doesn’t mean that a child will necessarily be shy for the rest of their lives. Shy kids often have a lot going on in their minds that they don’t always share with those around them. A quiet or shy child might be an empath with a rich inner life. Keep in mind that some people are just naturally a bit shy, and there is nothing wrong with that – we’re all different. You need only worry about your shy child if you believe they’re experiencing extreme shyness, or if you think your child’s shyness is holding them back. 

 

When is shyness in children a reason to worry?

 

Generally, seeing signs of shyness in children isn’t a cause for concern as long as your child seems happy and well-adjusted. However, if you believe your child is experiencing extreme shyness or that their shyness is holding them back, it’s time to look into what steps you can take to help your shy child. 

It’s also important to keep an eye out for sudden changes in your child when it comes to shyness. It could be that a child is shying away because of a negative experience with a specific person, whether an adult or someone in their age group. One important observation that has been made is that shyness is often directly linked to fear – worried and fearful children are more likely to be shy than carefree children. It’s fairly common for a child to be shy around adults they don’t know, and as a parent it’s important to support and reassure your child. ❤️

If you find that your normally happy and outgoing child is suddenly shy and quiet, this may be cause for concern. There could be an issue at school, such as bullying, or maybe your child is ruminating over things going on with friends or at home. If your child is suddenly unwilling to attend school, and displaying behaviours like pretending to be ill so they can stay home or refusing to go to school, it’s important to talk to them about what’s going on so you can help them find a solution. 

 

Signs of shyness

 

There are many signs to look out for that can help you to know whether or not you’re dealing with a shy child who may need some extra support. 

  • They struggle to make new friends

Your child may not be the type to approach another kid and easily make friends with them. If your child has trouble making new friends, just let them know that it’s okay to have a few good friends that they get along with over having many acquaintances. A good way to help your child with this is to set up playdates with other kids. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

  • They get shy around new people 

Some kids may be very outgoing around family and familiar faces, but become totally withdrawn around strangers. Some kids may feel pressured into behaving a certain way around certain people, which can cause them to shy away. They may also be confused about how to respond to someone who is a stranger to them but known to you. The confusion may come from telling them not to talk to strangers, but at the same time introducing them to people who are strangers to them and expecting them to respond a certain way.

  • They’re afraid to speak up

Your child’s teacher may tell you that your shy child is reluctant to speak up and participate in class. A child may also be afraid to share how they feel about something due to fear of how the other person will respond to them. 

  • They keep to themselves

Instead of being around others, they withdraw and prefer to be alone. In these situations, kids may be concerned about how others see them and may be afraid to approach people as a result. Allow these kids to have their downtime while also letting them know that it’s a good thing to have friends and interact with other people. A good way to connect with your child and get them to come out of their shell may be through art and play. 🎨

  • They struggle with social skills

Whether it is making eye contact with people, or being very soft spoken in specific situations, kids who struggle with shyness have a difficult time interacting with others. Shy kids may need reassurance about their social skills and plenty of practice. Try role playing to get your child comfortable with socialising with family. If you find that your child really struggles with their social skills or other aspects of their life, they may be neurodiverse and require some extra support.

  • They get uncomfortable or withdrawn in new situations

The child may avoid social situations because they have trouble warming up to new people or environments. When you observe this, avoid forcing the child to interact and approaching the situation with impatience. Empathise with how they feel, and try to help your child to feel more comfortable. 

 

How can I help my child overcome shyness? 

 

Shyness in children is very common, but usually not a permanent thing. As a parent, there are several things you can do to help your child to gradually overcome shyness. 

  • Give your child opportunities to express their feelings in a healthy way

Shy children may feel misunderstood because they have trouble expressing their feelings. You can ask your child to verbally express how they feel about something, draw a picture, or write a note. The key to having this activity work is to foster an open and supportive environment in which you can guide them through their feelings and teach them how to express themselves. Meditating with your kid may help them feel more calm and connected to their emotions. 🧘

  • Teach your child to be polite, even in situations where they feel nervous 

Being shy isn’t an excuse to be disrespectful or rude. Teaching your child how to politely respond to people while maintaining their boundaries takes them a step closer to overcoming shyness. Going over typical polite phrases people tend to use can also help them prepare for social situations and feel more comfortable going into them. 

  • Enroll your child in an extracurricular activity 

Taking part in extracurricular activities will help your shy kid to socialise and make new friends while focusing on one activity. There are many fun and interesting activities your child can take part in depending on their age and interests, such as sports or creative arts. 🧑‍🎨

  • Prepare your child for new places and experiences

Being in a new environment with new people can be overwhelming to kids who are shy. You’ll find that your shy child may cry or withdraw in these situations. Try to explain to the child, in an age-appropriate way, what to expect in certain situations so that they can be prepared for it. If they are going to a new school, you can introduce them to the staff ahead of time to help them be more comfortable. There are also helpful resources online that can help your shy child to come out of their shell. 

If your child seems to be going through a shy phase, you likely don’t need to worry too much. Most kids experience shyness at a young age, and it’s usually not something that will last a lifetime. Helping your child to overcome shyness can take a lot of work, but it can be done with dedication and patience. With the right tools and activities, your child can gain more confidence and overcome their shyness in any social situation that presents itself. 

 

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