One of the fears that parents feel is for their children to be overly shy and to feel like an outcast at school. Some children are really shy and introverted, and this is considered a normal stage in the developmental years of a child. .
In some instances, children are not exposed to different situations, and may be staying at home with the parents or siblings most of the time. Therefore, when brought outside, they just resent being with a crowd, or do not like idea of strangers fussing about them. Since they are not exposed to new situations, they have difficulty in coping and in warming up with new people and places.
There are children who may have developed poor self-esteem even at an early age. Those who have physical handicaps, or may have some very visible birth marks may start to develop inferiority and avoid contact with people outside their family. They may feel unwelcome and that others may make fun of them.
Some parents may be very over-protective. These parents would tend to dote on the kids all the time, that the kids become clingy and dependent. In effect, they feel uneasy with others, and may feel inadequate if without the side of the parents. There are those who pattern their shyness from their parents or older siblings.
Experts say that there are many who outgrow this kind of attitude and come out of there shell once they become at ease with different people and different places. They become mature as they enter kindergarten and are exposed to different social situations. They learn to adjust and cope, and are able to develop better social skills.
But what about children who could not seem to shake off this behavior? It must be heart-breaking for parents to see children who are out of their pre-school age, are in elementary grades already and could not develop good relationship with his or her peers at school. What else could be sad than to hear your child not looking forward to going to school simply because he or she cannot relate well with his or her classmates, and that he or she has no permanent friends there?
The parent must be on the look out for cues to see if the child’s shyness is already affecting his or her supposed relationships with significant people around him or her, and if it is interfering in the development in the many aspects of the child’s life. For instance, is the child too withdrawn that he or she could not bear to be in class? Do they resent even the teacher’s help? Does the child feel that he or she is an outcast and seems to be struggling with this concern?
For parents, here are some helpful tips in helping your child to have better social skills at school and other places, other than your home:
1. Build the child’s self-worth. Confidence is the key word here. Children develop a self-image very early. A negative self-image would affect the child’s social skills. Make sure he or she occasionally overhears you say very nice and positive things about her personality, skills, abilities and achievements. Talk to the child and let him or her be aware of the gifts and assets that he or she has.
2. Do not compare personalities. Be aware and accepting of the fact that people –even members of one family –have different personalities and temperament. Each person has his own ability to deal with the world. Still, you may praise another child’s abilities in making friends and good social behavior, but do not mention anything that would compare that child to your shy child.
3. Encourage changes slowly. Do not expect an overnight change. Take little steps with the child in trying to learn social skills. Do not urge the child to change instantly. Avoid using words like “Don’t be shy” or “try to be more popular. To be popular is not the goal that you want your child to attain. The child is taking his or her own pace, and just let him or her be. Bear in mind that some children are not totally lonely once they are alone. It is important to know if the child still likes himself or herself, even if they are shy and do not mingle much with others.
4. Praise non-shy behaviors and advances. Whenever a child tries to accept an invitation for a possible friendship, reinforce it. If a child invites your child to play when you are at the park, and your child agrees to it, show your happiness about it. Give an assuring word and a thumbs-up sign. If the child says yes to attending a party and joins even one game, then give him or her a simple reward like going to the mall, or having a picnic, or buying a good book or perhaps even a little toy.
5. Practice social skills. Try to test the waters if your child would not mind some help. You could coach him or her on how to handle some social situations. Talk about instances that worry him or her more. Try to draw ideas from him or her on how she could make herself more comfortable and at ease with other people, or you may suggest a few tips to him or her as well.
6. Encourage and teach responsibility and independence. Although independence comes in gradual steps, it would be wise to teach all children ways on how to handle situations by themselves. Allow them to solve their little concerns and create strategies on how to solve problems that they think they can. Children who are too dependent to their parents would most likely be afraid to take risks and to take part in social activities. You may also teach the child to be more assertive in certain situations.
7. Involvement in activities. Parents should help children find activities that would allow them to explore their skills, abilities and interests. They could develop hobbies where they would be able to meet other children who share the same interests. Allowing them to excel also boosts their self-worth. Avoid to push them to activities that they are not really interested in. That would frustrate them more, and may not really result in anything good for all of you.
8. Do not let shy children to isolate themselves. Children who are shy would tend to withdraw and spend more time just being alone. Encourage more interaction with siblings, or with a neighbor’s child. Bring the child to the park often, where there are other kids, or to friend’s houses where interaction could take place.
9. Do not speak for your shy child. A parent who would often ask and speak for a shy child would reinforce the shy behavior. Instead, encourage the child to speak for himself or herself. If given a chance, usually they would really do the talking. Be supportive and you may want to hold the hand of the child who wishes to say something. Once the child tries, give a rewarding smile or a kind word for trying to speak up.
10. Communicate with the child’s teacher. The child spends a great deal of time inside the classroom, and the teacher is the best person to know if your child’s shyness is quite alarming. Inquire if the child is able to develop friendship in class, or he or she spends more time alone, or if there are indicators of a withdrawn behavior. Discuss with the teacher on how both of you could explore other means of discouraging the shy behavior and in developing more social skills.