Shyness in children - how to overcome shyness
Shyness in children
Shyness results in children in them losing out on a number of activities and opportunities. Shyness involves anxiety and inhibition in certain social situations. While most young children seem to be shy of strangers and unfamiliar situations, they seem to adapt better with exposure and a little effort on the side of parents to make them feel secure. However, some children never seem to grow out of it and carry this behavior into adult life. Studies indicate that prevalence of shyness increases with age. The prevalence rate goes up from 20% in grade one to about 50% when they reach middle school. This gives us hope that if you do the right thing at an early age you could prevent your child from being shy for life. You could make your child’s life richer by helping him/her.
How to overcome shyness
As parents, you could do a lot to help your children overcome the problem of shyness.
You could start by explaining to your child that being sociable has its advantages. You could make this more meaningful to them by explaining that he/she could have more friends to play with - all children do love to play. You could talk to your child about other activities he/she loves which would involve other kids. My son loves to read and he would often ask me about those authors. I would use this opportunity make the activity seem more fascinating to him by talking about ‘meet the author programs’ or book releases where he could meet the author and other children who love the author. His curiosity got the better of him and he ventured out to such social gatherings, slowly stepping out of his shyness. You could do similar things in such a way that it motivates your child to be more outgoing. Giving examples of how you overcame your own limitation and how you now enjoy life by overcoming them would make more sense to your child.
Causes for shyness are still not clear. There are theories that suggest genetic factors, social environment, disabilities, psychological trauma and parenting styles etc have a part to play (for more information read this article on Shyness). Is shyness bad? I would like to say no, but the fact that it robs a child of a happy active, childhood could only be classified as such. Shy children have the lowest likelihood of getting into trouble at school. They do not want to be noticed and keep a low profile. They are observant and intelligent, understanding and concentrating much more than the other sociable children.
Be a role model. Teach your child with your actions. Let them see you enjoying social interactions or activities that put you in the limelight. When children see that you are struggling with anxiety and uncertainties, they tend to pick it from you. Take the trouble to be the first to begin a conversation or greet others. Your children observe you more than you give them credit for. Being friendly with your neighbours and colleagues would motivate your child to put into practice what he or she sees.
Do not label your child. When you introduce your child to others do not say he/she is shy. Labelling your child as “shy” gives your child the excuse not to make an effort to come out of the shyness. Instead, you could mention how courageous he/she has been with emphasis on the times your child had put in the effort.
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Increase the social learning experiences. Having parties, story
reading events, playdates with neighbours or friends, etc could help. Have a practice session before the event, where in you could role play the event as a game to reduce anxiety. Increase social outing and make these experiences more frequent to familiarise your child while supporting and motivating him/her to do better. Slowly widen the circle of social activity. A piano recital in a friend’s house or a little singing competition with other kids etc, depending on your child's talents, could all help in the process of socialization.
Encourage your child to focus on his/her strengths. You could help your child by refraining from comparisons and by only giving positive feedback, while actively encouraging your child to be outgoing.
Praise, appreciation and encouragement are all they need to become more confident. You could take it upon yourself to tell your child everyday how good he or she is in some activity. This serves as an affirmation from you to motivate your child do her best. Such affirmations help build confidence and faith in themselves.
Don’t push, if you push them they become more fearful. Lead by example and support, even nonverbal support is good enough. Give them responsibilities that they can handle and encourage them in their task. These confidence building measures go a long way.
Enlist the support of their teachers and work with them. If teachers could ask them to read, narrate stories, recite poems etc, and positively encourage, the children become more bold and confident. Being included in small parts in dramatics that do not call for long dialogues could help change the very nature of your child. Teachers could always praise their children for good behaviour and refer to them as examples.
Do not expect miracles overnight. Change is always slow and requires patience on your part. Perseverance and consistent effort will prove to be beneficial in the long run and your child will thank you for it.
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