Does your kid have trouble making friends at school or run and hide behind you at any social gathering? Are you losing sleep worrying about how your shy kid will survive ever-competitive societal norms alongside other rather outgoing and frank kids? Read on to discover some ways you can help your clammed-up kid come out of their shell and boost their confidence.
Every child comes with his or her own special character and personality. Some of them are active, outgoing, adventurous, or chatty while others can be calm, patient, curious, quiet, or shy. No 2 kids are the same, even if they’re identical twins (like mine); they can have completely different traits and behaviors. One of my twin daughters (elder one, as she prefers to be called) is chatty and wild and makes friends easily while the younger one is rather quiet and needs her time with people to come out of her shell.
While every kid is unique and precious in his or her own way, often parents of shy and quieter kids are worried about their kids’ social skills and development. Every parent wishes their child was outgoing and friendly, but it is equally essential to recognize the feelings and needs of our shy kids and deal with them sensitively.
Having been an introverted kid and teen myself, I can assure you that we may never be outspoken and friendly to every stranger, but we do learn to deal with and cope well with the competitive world and survive perfectly fine. Although, now that I have grown up and have my own kids; one of which is taking from me this introvert-gene, I realize there surely are ways in which we as parents can help our shy kid to open up (no denying that I too am benefiting from few of them!)
It is really important is to understand that being shy is your kid’s natural tendency and NOT a problem that needs to be fixed.
You want to be sure that your kid’s shyness is just their natural tendency and not a deep-rooted issue s/he is dealing emotionally with. Make sure he or she is not going through any of the following:
- Being bullied at school
- Trauma in past
- Family stress like divorcing parents or loss of close family member
- Authoritative parent(s)
- Clinical anxiety
How can you boost the confidence of your shy child?
There are certain ways in which you can help your little one open up and be more confident and comfortable socially. I’ve been adopting the following techniques with my daughter and so far, it has been helping both her and me.
1. Don’t label
Labeling your child as “shy” only reinforces his shyness in his subconscious, especially when it comes from a parent. Instead, help them identify the feeling by prompting with questions or suggestions like “Are you feeling shy?” or “It’s OK to feel shy, take your time.” It is important for the child to look at it as a feeling that will pass and not a trait that will stay with him.
2. Set a good example
Kids follow their parents, more in action and less in words. For instance, when you enter a party, instead of pushing your shy kids to go and make friends, go ahead and start mingling with people you don’t know and take your child along. Seeing you comfortable in a new setting gives them confidence that it’s a safe place and it is also safe to meet new faces and make new friends.
This tip essentially helped me as much as it helped my daughter, as I too had to come out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers at a social gathering to make my daughter feel comfortable. And in helping my daughter, I too have gotten better at getting over my introvert tendencies.
3. Prepare in advance
If you’re taking kids to a friend’s birthday party or to a new school, prepare them in advance by talking about it and giving them an idea of what to expect there. Tell them beforehand who they are going to meet, what they are going to do there, and how long they will be there. If they are starting at a new school, prepare them emotionally and mentally by telling them their new teacher’s name, how many new kids they’re going to meet, how many hours they’ll spend, etc. If possible, take them a couple of times to the school campus before the term starts to get them familiarized with the new classroom, canteen/cafeteria, and playground so there aren’t many big surprises on the first day of school.
4. Give them time to warm up
You take your kid to a new park. He meets new kids there but is hesitant in approaching them or doesn’t go and join them at once. Even if one of those kids comes and talks to him, he’s shying away or hiding behind you. As tempted as you are to push him to talk to those kids and play with them, hold yourself back from interfering and let him take his time. If your kid needs time to process and absorb his new surroundings and new people, let him do it at his own pace. You jumping in to help will not only stop him from trying for himself but will also instill in him that he needs you to handle such situations.
5. A little effort goes a long way
Observe the way you talk and behave with and around your shy kid and make sure to implement these subtle yet effective measures when dealing with them. You would be surprised how such little things bring big changes:
- Listen attentively. Listen and appreciate what they have to share and always contribute to conversation. This will not only boost their confidence, but will help them understand the importance of two-way conversation.
- Don’t interrupt when they’re talking as this makes a kid feel less important in the conversation.
- Don’t criticize if they say or do something silly. Instead, suggest how it can be done better.
- Appreciate every effort they put out in opening up.
6. Don’t disregard their feeling
Accept the fact that your kid/teen is shy in nature and that’s OK! It is normal if your child takes a little longer to warm up when pushed into a social situation. Some of them need more time to adapt to changing surroundings and there’s nothing wrong with it. Looking at the bright side, such kids are more aware of their surroundings, process everything at a deeper level, and are generally smarter ones in the lot.
Remember, your job here as a parent is not to convert them into a complete extrovert but make them comfortable in everyday situations without feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated every time. Shower them with love, hugs and kisses, praise every effort they put in, be all ears when they’re talking, share your stories, and experiences about how you overcame your nervousness or shyness in public. All this will definitely help them in the long run.