You are attending a birthday party and your child is clinging to your legs. You have to quietly sneak out to use the restroom, only to find your child crying in a corner when you come back.
While this looks like a been-there kind of situation to most parents, they are often worried that the child might grow up to have social issues and will withdraw himself / herself from new challenging situations.
All kids are different. Some love to raise their hands at every given opportunity and be seen while others will stay away from participating even in a group activity at school.
Being shy is not a disorder; it is just a personality trait. Shy does not always mean that your child has a low self esteem or is incapable of interacting with his/her peers. It could mean that your child is mild-mannered and a good listener.
But if you are worried that being shy is hampering your child from making new friends and being comfortable speaking up, first understand the reason for the behaviour before trying out ways to support them.
Understand your child’s needs and empathize supportively
If talking to a new person is making your child withdraw, don’t push him/her. You talk to the person first, let him take notice of your comfort level and then introduce your child. If he/she is worried about making a mistake or being embarrassed, talk to them about their fears and ways to handle them.
Equip him/her to make new friends
Role play with your child how to start a conversation and ask to join a game. Practice effective strategies to make him/her less anxious. Give him/her plenty of opportunities to practice the newly acquired skill, by taking him/her to the park or group activities.
Set a good example
Shy kids observe keenly. If they notice you moving confidently around a group of strangers, shaking hands and making eye contacts, they will are more likely to try it.
Don’t make a big deal out of strangers
It is natural for your child to feel reluctant to talk to strangers because of the number of times you might have told him/her to stay away from them. This can create social phobia. You need to teach your child to make good judgement about who to talk to.
Never push your child
Even if you are making efforts to help him overcome his/her social awkwardness, be patient. Don’t push your child and tell him/her that everyone will judge him based on his/her interaction.
Respect your child
Never tell others apologetically that “He is shy!” in front of your child. Be supportive. Never tease or comment sarcastically.
Let your child develop his/her own senses at his/her own pace. Remember that every child is different. More the exposure and experience they get, the sooner the tendency will fade away.