My Child Is Shy; What Do I Do?

Reviewed Nov 22, 2019

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Shyness is not a bad thing.
  • Modeling, role playing, and preparing for events help ease shyness.

Josie is a child with a shy personality. When her parents take her to the park or to the pool, she clings to their sides and is hesitant to play with other kids. When adults ask her questions, she may avoid eye contact or not answer.

Her parents, two very outgoing people, aren’t sure what to do. They don’t understand her personality. Should they force her to talk to people? Should they tell people that she is shy?

Josie’s pediatrician told them not to worry. They should encourage Josie and give her opportunities to make friends, but not force her. They should engage the adults who talk to them. If a child sees that her parents are comfortable and at ease with a person, she will often come around.

However, if the adults talk negatively about the shy personality or push the child to interact, it can backfire and cause the child to feel distressed. It can make the child feel like shyness isn’t a valued part of her personality.

Being shy is not a bad thing

Often parents worry, especially if they themselves aren’t shy. There is, though, nothing wrong with a shy personality. A lot of people are quiet and strong, observant, or slow to warm up to a new situation. Often the shy child is one who is very observant. When she grows up, she may be sensitive to others’ feelings and a good listener.

Help your shy child feel comfortable

There are many strategies you can use to help your shy child feel more comfortable.

  • Talk to your child before entering a social situation or new place. Let your child know what to expect. “We are going to go see my friend. She has two little kids your age. They like cars too. Maybe you can bring your favorite car to show them?” In this example, you have also given the child an ice-breaker—sharing his car.

Or “We are going to visit Grandma. She may want a hug or kiss when we come in. Is that OK with you?” This is a helpful strategy for any age. If the child is older and can say that he doesn’t feel comfortable, respect that. Offer an alternative like a high-five.

  • Role-play. If your child will be doing something where people will be asking questions, act it out with him first. Have him write down answers to questions or a script for a phone message.
  • Model social behaviors. Say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you,” to people who are helping you. Encourage your child to do the same. If someone like a waiter asks her what she wants to eat, let her answer. Repeat the question if necessary.
  • Expose him to his interests. Sign your child up for a class or activity that he has said he might enjoy. It can be helpful if he knows someone else in the class. He might say he wants to go and then get scared before the first class or event. Don’t give in. Take him a few times. Be gentle with your words and actions. Try to negotiate. “I’ll sit here for a while and watch. You can stay by me.” The child might not participate the first time or two but will warm up. It can also be helpful to let the adult in charge know about the shyness ahead of time so she can come up to you and start talking casually, helping your child to feel more comfortable.
  • Talk to her teacher. The teacher can structure social interactions. He can also pay attention to new friendships. Attend as many school events as possible with your child. Stay with her as support. Her level of participation might be showing up.
  • Modify activities. You know your child best. Maybe your child feels comfortable having a job to do at events. Or, if your child wants to have a birthday party, invite only a few close friends. Allow your child to open his gifts privately.

Watch for signs that shyness is causing distress

You should contact your pediatrician if your preschool or school-age child starts avoiding activities that she would normally like to do. They can also tell you about symptoms like nausea, racing heart, or anxiety.

With toddlers, it is hard to know how shyness is making them feel. It is more important to stay calm and go with the flow. Encourage your toddler, but be patient.

Explain your child’s personality to others

You don’t need to apologize for your child since there is nothing wrong with being shy. However, you can help relatives, siblings, and friends know that your child might take a while longer to warm up to them.

You can tell relatives “My child is quiet and values getting to know people bit by bit. It has nothing to do with you personally. I’m sure in time, you’ll get lots of attention.”

For a sibling or friend, let the other child know that your child likes him or her and values the relationship. You can say “One of the ways that people are different is that it takes some kids more time to feel comfortable or some kids need more alone time. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.”

Try to have these conversations out of earshot from your child, but if she is there, remember to use positive and encouraging words.

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Caren Mangarelli, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University; Emily Hayes, MEd, Lead Kindergarten Teacher, The Lerner School, Durham, NC; "Helping Your Shy Child," Psychology Today www.psychologytoday.com/blog/growing-friendships/201606/helping-your-shy-child.

Summary

  • Shyness is not a bad thing.
  • Modeling, role playing, and preparing for events help ease shyness.

Josie is a child with a shy personality. When her parents take her to the park or to the pool, she clings to their sides and is hesitant to play with other kids. When adults ask her questions, she may avoid eye contact or not answer.

Her parents, two very outgoing people, aren’t sure what to do. They don’t understand her personality. Should they force her to talk to people? Should they tell people that she is shy?

Josie’s pediatrician told them not to worry. They should encourage Josie and give her opportunities to make friends, but not force her. They should engage the adults who talk to them. If a child sees that her parents are comfortable and at ease with a person, she will often come around.

However, if the adults talk negatively about the shy personality or push the child to interact, it can backfire and cause the child to feel distressed. It can make the child feel like shyness isn’t a valued part of her personality.

Being shy is not a bad thing

Often parents worry, especially if they themselves aren’t shy. There is, though, nothing wrong with a shy personality. A lot of people are quiet and strong, observant, or slow to warm up to a new situation. Often the shy child is one who is very observant. When she grows up, she may be sensitive to others’ feelings and a good listener.

Help your shy child feel comfortable

There are many strategies you can use to help your shy child feel more comfortable.

  • Talk to your child before entering a social situation or new place. Let your child know what to expect. “We are going to go see my friend. She has two little kids your age. They like cars too. Maybe you can bring your favorite car to show them?” In this example, you have also given the child an ice-breaker—sharing his car.

Or “We are going to visit Grandma. She may want a hug or kiss when we come in. Is that OK with you?” This is a helpful strategy for any age. If the child is older and can say that he doesn’t feel comfortable, respect that. Offer an alternative like a high-five.

  • Role-play. If your child will be doing something where people will be asking questions, act it out with him first. Have him write down answers to questions or a script for a phone message.
  • Model social behaviors. Say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you,” to people who are helping you. Encourage your child to do the same. If someone like a waiter asks her what she wants to eat, let her answer. Repeat the question if necessary.
  • Expose him to his interests. Sign your child up for a class or activity that he has said he might enjoy. It can be helpful if he knows someone else in the class. He might say he wants to go and then get scared before the first class or event. Don’t give in. Take him a few times. Be gentle with your words and actions. Try to negotiate. “I’ll sit here for a while and watch. You can stay by me.” The child might not participate the first time or two but will warm up. It can also be helpful to let the adult in charge know about the shyness ahead of time so she can come up to you and start talking casually, helping your child to feel more comfortable.
  • Talk to her teacher. The teacher can structure social interactions. He can also pay attention to new friendships. Attend as many school events as possible with your child. Stay with her as support. Her level of participation might be showing up.
  • Modify activities. You know your child best. Maybe your child feels comfortable having a job to do at events. Or, if your child wants to have a birthday party, invite only a few close friends. Allow your child to open his gifts privately.

Watch for signs that shyness is causing distress

You should contact your pediatrician if your preschool or school-age child starts avoiding activities that she would normally like to do. They can also tell you about symptoms like nausea, racing heart, or anxiety.

With toddlers, it is hard to know how shyness is making them feel. It is more important to stay calm and go with the flow. Encourage your toddler, but be patient.

Explain your child’s personality to others

You don’t need to apologize for your child since there is nothing wrong with being shy. However, you can help relatives, siblings, and friends know that your child might take a while longer to warm up to them.

You can tell relatives “My child is quiet and values getting to know people bit by bit. It has nothing to do with you personally. I’m sure in time, you’ll get lots of attention.”

For a sibling or friend, let the other child know that your child likes him or her and values the relationship. You can say “One of the ways that people are different is that it takes some kids more time to feel comfortable or some kids need more alone time. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.”

Try to have these conversations out of earshot from your child, but if she is there, remember to use positive and encouraging words.

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Caren Mangarelli, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University; Emily Hayes, MEd, Lead Kindergarten Teacher, The Lerner School, Durham, NC; "Helping Your Shy Child," Psychology Today www.psychologytoday.com/blog/growing-friendships/201606/helping-your-shy-child.

Summary

  • Shyness is not a bad thing.
  • Modeling, role playing, and preparing for events help ease shyness.

Josie is a child with a shy personality. When her parents take her to the park or to the pool, she clings to their sides and is hesitant to play with other kids. When adults ask her questions, she may avoid eye contact or not answer.

Her parents, two very outgoing people, aren’t sure what to do. They don’t understand her personality. Should they force her to talk to people? Should they tell people that she is shy?

Josie’s pediatrician told them not to worry. They should encourage Josie and give her opportunities to make friends, but not force her. They should engage the adults who talk to them. If a child sees that her parents are comfortable and at ease with a person, she will often come around.

However, if the adults talk negatively about the shy personality or push the child to interact, it can backfire and cause the child to feel distressed. It can make the child feel like shyness isn’t a valued part of her personality.

Being shy is not a bad thing

Often parents worry, especially if they themselves aren’t shy. There is, though, nothing wrong with a shy personality. A lot of people are quiet and strong, observant, or slow to warm up to a new situation. Often the shy child is one who is very observant. When she grows up, she may be sensitive to others’ feelings and a good listener.

Help your shy child feel comfortable

There are many strategies you can use to help your shy child feel more comfortable.

  • Talk to your child before entering a social situation or new place. Let your child know what to expect. “We are going to go see my friend. She has two little kids your age. They like cars too. Maybe you can bring your favorite car to show them?” In this example, you have also given the child an ice-breaker—sharing his car.

Or “We are going to visit Grandma. She may want a hug or kiss when we come in. Is that OK with you?” This is a helpful strategy for any age. If the child is older and can say that he doesn’t feel comfortable, respect that. Offer an alternative like a high-five.

  • Role-play. If your child will be doing something where people will be asking questions, act it out with him first. Have him write down answers to questions or a script for a phone message.
  • Model social behaviors. Say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you,” to people who are helping you. Encourage your child to do the same. If someone like a waiter asks her what she wants to eat, let her answer. Repeat the question if necessary.
  • Expose him to his interests. Sign your child up for a class or activity that he has said he might enjoy. It can be helpful if he knows someone else in the class. He might say he wants to go and then get scared before the first class or event. Don’t give in. Take him a few times. Be gentle with your words and actions. Try to negotiate. “I’ll sit here for a while and watch. You can stay by me.” The child might not participate the first time or two but will warm up. It can also be helpful to let the adult in charge know about the shyness ahead of time so she can come up to you and start talking casually, helping your child to feel more comfortable.
  • Talk to her teacher. The teacher can structure social interactions. He can also pay attention to new friendships. Attend as many school events as possible with your child. Stay with her as support. Her level of participation might be showing up.
  • Modify activities. You know your child best. Maybe your child feels comfortable having a job to do at events. Or, if your child wants to have a birthday party, invite only a few close friends. Allow your child to open his gifts privately.

Watch for signs that shyness is causing distress

You should contact your pediatrician if your preschool or school-age child starts avoiding activities that she would normally like to do. They can also tell you about symptoms like nausea, racing heart, or anxiety.

With toddlers, it is hard to know how shyness is making them feel. It is more important to stay calm and go with the flow. Encourage your toddler, but be patient.

Explain your child’s personality to others

You don’t need to apologize for your child since there is nothing wrong with being shy. However, you can help relatives, siblings, and friends know that your child might take a while longer to warm up to them.

You can tell relatives “My child is quiet and values getting to know people bit by bit. It has nothing to do with you personally. I’m sure in time, you’ll get lots of attention.”

For a sibling or friend, let the other child know that your child likes him or her and values the relationship. You can say “One of the ways that people are different is that it takes some kids more time to feel comfortable or some kids need more alone time. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.”

Try to have these conversations out of earshot from your child, but if she is there, remember to use positive and encouraging words.

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Caren Mangarelli, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University; Emily Hayes, MEd, Lead Kindergarten Teacher, The Lerner School, Durham, NC; "Helping Your Shy Child," Psychology Today www.psychologytoday.com/blog/growing-friendships/201606/helping-your-shy-child.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2021 Beacon Health Options, Inc.