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How to Help Shy Kids

The upsides of shyness, and what to do--and not do--if you have a shy child

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shy kids

Shy kids will often outgrow their fears and become more comfortable in social settings as time goes on.

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If you have a shy child, chances are you know exactly what it feels like to have to peel a clinging kid from around your legs in the beginning days of the school year or in other social situations. While some children jump in and start engaging with other kids right away at birthday parties, school, or other social settings, others are naturally more reluctant, and need more time to warm up to a situation.

For parents, seeing shyness in kids can often cause some concern. They may think, "Will shyness hold my child back?" But the truth is, shyness is not always a bad thing, and can have benefits.

To help kids who are shy, parents can first try to understand what is behind the behavior. In many cases, children are simply born introverted while others are naturally more ooutgoing. Even within one family, you can have one sibling who is shy and another who is a social butterfly.

In other instances, a child may feel shy in certain new or uncomfortable situations, or develop shyness after an embarrassing experience. For instance, a child may feel shy in a new school but feel more comfortable as he gets to know more people. Or he may forget a line in a school play and then be reluctant about performing again in front of people.


What to Remember About Shyness in Kids

Shyness is something kids often outgrow, or at least learn to handle.
Even when a child is one of those shy kids who are plastered to a parent’s legs at birthday parties and during the first days of school, they will eventually learn how to handle new situations much more comfortably. It may take some time (sometimes years!) before an introverted child is more relaxed in social situations, but it will get better.

Shy kids may still stay cautious.
Don’t expect your child to be something she is not. A naturally introverted child will most likely never become someone who jumps in immediately without hesitation and thrives in highly social settings. She will probably still exercise caution in new situations and won’t jump in with out checking things out.

People usually end up being a mixture of both.
Many people who were shy as kids can grow up to be great at social settings such as parties and events. But there may be times when they also need to be alone and just be by themselves to create, relax, or work on their own.

There are many important advantages to being an introvert.
A February, 2012 Time magazine cover story detailed some of the many upsides to being shy. They include the following benefits:

  • Introverts may have fewer friends but they are deep and lasting relationships.
  • Introverts may be cautious, but they tend to think things through thoroughly and perhaps make better decisions.
  • Introverts tend to be good at working alone for long periods of time to come up with new ideas. Many kids who are shy are great at working by themselves -- say, to practice their skills as a musician or a writer -- and are very creative.


How Parents Can Help

Rely on teachers.
They have great ideas for how to handle shyness, especially in the classroom.

Know that it will change.
Shyness is something kids often outgrow, or at least learn to handle. My child was often the one plastered to my leg at birthday parties and during the first days of school. Now, he is much more comfortable in new situations. However, he is still cautious and doesn’t jump in with out checking things out.

Think about positives of being introverted.
Kids who are shy often enjoy meaningful relationships, tend to make careful decisions, and are often better at creating and working alone.

Don’t push.
Scolding your child for being shy won’t change your child. In fact, it will lead to anxiety and may only serve to make a child feel bad about himself.

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