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At some point or another we all experience shyness but with little ones it can be so sad to see them clamp up and shrink back from interaction with other adults and children. Shyness may be prompted by being in a new group, having difficulty at school, if they are worried about something, being in different social situations etc.
Why does shyness occur?
- Is shyness inherited or learned? There is no definitive research proving it is caused by hereditary. Shyness may be a behaviour that is learned stemming from being raised by shy parents. Shy parents typically don’t teach or demonstrate the social skills that can guide the children away from shyness.
- Temperament – it has been found that about 10% of children are born with a tendency to be inhibited. This is called “inhibited temperament” and means they come into the world more sensitive to stimuli (noise, people, touch etc.) This idea and impression is then transferred into their social world.
- Parenting style – if parents are too protective or if they demonstrate inconsistent parenting styles this can affect the child. Also those parents who instil fear in their children can cause insecurities.
- If the children always seem to be in situations where they are exposed to difficult or new social situations this can affect them and polarise the shyness.
- Feeling picked-on - if they are in situations where they are made to feel insecure by others, this can compound the shyness.
Some tips which may help your child:
- Talk to your child. Try to be as open and as relaxed as possible around them. Try and listen to their worries and encourage them to tell you how they feel. Talk about what scares them in social situations and support and confirm that you are always there for them.
- Help them to take risks. Encourage them to mix with other children in playgroups and encourage older children to join clubs and get involved. Slowly at first and showing plenty of guidance persuade them to get involved and have fun with new friends.
- Do role play. Practice what they need to say and do in difficult situations. Encourage them to make eye contact, introduce friends, and practice what to say in different situations. Set up scenarios and work through conversations together. Keep it fun though.
- Praise them. When they do a good job in a new situation or when meeting people make sure you acknowledge their success and praise them.
- Don’t label them as shy. It is so deflating to be labelled and so hard not to just do what is expected of you, so try not to talk about their shyness and label them.
- Focus on what they are good at. Increase their self-esteem and confidence by doing things they are good at and finding ways they can be successful.
- Explain what is going to happen each day so some of the anxiety may be reduced as they know the plan for the day ahead and feel more secure about what's coming next.
- Share your own experiences. Tell them about your own nervousness in situations or about when you were small how you felt in different situations. This will make them feel normal.
- Keep positive. Don't nag them about the shyness, keep a positive outlook and attitude towards your child.
- Go along to new places together first (new school or tennis or ballet class) when nothing is going on a show them round so they get to see the place first.
- Tell the teacher or group leader that your child is shy so they are aware and can be mindful of them during the session.
- Don't try and change them and put undue pressure on them... let them be comfortable in their own skin. Just give them plenty of support and guide them to be as happy as they can be.