Every child is unique and it’s important to raise them so. You might have been a boisterous and outgoing child, or you may have forgotten all about the journey it took you to overcome shyness. If you’re raising a shy child there are ways to help them flourish. We asked parenting experts for advice on how best you can support your shy child.
Shy is not the same as introverted
As opposed to an introvert who relishes in their own space, shy kids are often quite social they just require a bit of extra help. Parenting coach Elisabeth Stitt says we should rid ourselves of the labels and just support and embrace our kids.
“What is important to remember about shy children is that they are not antisocial and they are not necessarily introverts. In fact, in environments where they are perfectly comfortable shy children can be very chatty. Shy children just need a great deal of time to become used to situations to feel safe from being judged. Like anxious children, however, parents’ best course of action is gradual low exposure to social situations. Avoid labeling a child as “shy” and just explain they need more time. Prep them before visits by saying who will be there and allow them to leave early if they are overwhelmed.”
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Create a comfortable environment
Since the act of socialising is intimidating to a shy child it’s a good idea to help them overcome this anxiety by helping them to socialise in an environment they are already comfortable with. For example, organise a playdate with 1-2 of their peers at home where they feel safe and in control of their environment. Bring the playground to you with a MyDeal sand pit and all-ages outdoor play toys. Allowing them to socialise in small groups in their own space can help with their confidence and lead to better social connections.
But it’s important for them to understand that this is a first step. Once they are more comfortable socialising with their peers you should take them to their friends houses for playdates or out and about for a movie or similar activity. You don’t want them to rely on a comfortable environment to be able to socialise. Only in the beginning you can use it to help bring them out of their shell.
Remind them there’s nothing wrong with shyness
Richard Daniel Curtis is a leading behavioural expert, also known as The Kid Calmer. He works hard to change the way adults communicate with children so we asked him for advice on understanding your shy child.
“Self-identity and security are the basics for effective social skills. It is important that a child does not feel insecure or wrong for being shy or an introvert.
Parents can focus social time on an activity, rather than try and prompt social interactions. This will take the pressure off the child and make them more likely to interact as they focus on something else. Another thing that will often help is to do an All About Me book - a scrapbook of their favourite things.”
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The power of creativity for shy children
Simona Weinstein is a certified art therapist from Indigo Art Therapy. She firmly believes that art is a powerful tool for helping shy children flourish.
“When children are asked ANYTHING a few things happen in an instant. For shy children, that instant becomes fraught with challenges.
Firstly, they are forced to find words to describe the response that is in their mind. Sometimes children do not have the vocabulary due to their age. Sometimes they are unable to verbalise due to trauma or reasons that caused the original shyness.
Secondly, they are forced to put their response in chronological or logical order in order to be coherent. Shy children are so concerned with self-preservation and managing the threatening feelings, that logic can be unavailable to them.
The creative process allows the picture in their mind to remain just that...a picture, and not have to be verbally transcribed, a process by which meanings and intention can become lost and diluted. The creativity moves the shy child away from the analytical left brain. When they are feeling shy they only identify as 'the shy kid". The creativity helps them connect with the non-conscious emotions (in their amygdala) that house their inner strengths. Once reminded that they are strong inside via the creativity, the world is their oyster!”
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You know what a great kid you have and just because they’re a bit shy doesn’t mean the world won’t know it soon too. Help them break out of their shell and learn to enjoy their journey from shy to showman.