While most children are ever ready to make new friends and eager to try new experiences, others may still hold back and cling onto a parent’s hand due to their bashful nature. But what constitutes a shy child? Well, shy children are usually defined as those who are unable to make eye contact when spoken to, who clam up when they are outside their familiar environment and who are slow to warm up to new situations, especially when meeting strangers. According to Karin Goh, child psychologist at The Centre for Psychology, “shy children tend to exhibit anxiety towards social situations that may lead to them believing that they are being judged or scrutinised for their behaviours.”
Shy children tend to follow rather than take the lead in play activities, resulting in a lack of self-confidence in themselves.
Why So Shy?
Even though shyness is an inborn personality trait for some, there are several other factors that contribute to the severity of shyness. These include:
- Children whose personalities tend towards being more emotionally sensitive and cautious.
- Having parents or other significant role models who also tend to be socially anxious or shy.
- Children who have been exposed to harsh criticisms in the early years of growing up tend to be more shy.
- Some children are less at ease with themselves. Shyness allows them an escape, a mean to hide what they really feel.
- Parents who are overprotective of their children can inadvertently result in increased shyness due to the lack of exposure to a range of social activities and situations.
Shyness affects approximately 40% of all people, according to bestselling author Bernardo Carducci.
Shake Off the Shyness
Children tend to learn to better manage their anxieties when they overcome shyness, hence overthrowing shyness can help protect them from other social-emotional difficulties, states Karin. “It is important to intervene so that your child will be able to warm up quicker in social situations and do not develop anxiety overtime. Here are four ways to help your child to be more sociable.
- Expose your child to as many social activities as possible. Parental involvement could help model confident behaviours.
- Do not push your child to be more outgoing. Allow them to observe, and then discuss their observations. This allows them to talk it out instead of internalising their fears.
- To greet a new person may be a daunting task for a shy child. Immediately praise your child privately such as showing a thumbs-up, smile and nod or commending verbally for being able to achieve this independently.
- Choose activities that your child is interested in. The more passionate they feel about the activity or their hobby, the more likely they are to come out of their shell.
So, calm down and try looking at things from your kid’s point of view. How are they feeling? What is it that causes them to feel shy? Only when we try to understand how our children feel, are we better able to help them. Seek professional support if you need to and work towards helping your child shine.