How to Help Your Shy Child: 5 Things Not to Forget
Children don’t have to be socially anxious to be considered shy. There are endless factors that can contribute to a child’s interaction comfort zone. We don’t have to force them to “change,” per se, but habitual shyness can dramatically lessen a kid’s emotional and social growth. Striking a balance when addressing a shy child’s need is essential.
Is There a Shyness Spectrum?
The short answer is yes. For example, some children display shy tendencies while remaining secure in their outlook and behavior. A little further along on the spectrum, there are kids who are shy but wish they could be more outgoing and involved. At the other end of the spectrum, you’d find children with any number of specific anxiety disorders.
Some questions to consider when contemplating your child’s reactions and/or anxiety:
- Is this situation causing your kid to miss out on activities that other their age enjoy?
- How does shyness impact your child’s academic work and/or social life?
- Are you worrying a lot about your’s child’s shyness?
- Is this leading you to feel differently about your child?
- Do you find yourself altering your actions to work around your kid’s shyness?
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He believes most children — up to 80 percent — fall into a broad “middle” in terms of introversion or extroversion. Dr. Siegel recommends parents identify if their child falls into either 10 percent extreme. In the case of extreme shyness, Siegel’s work offers insights into how parents can address social anxiety in their children.
5 Ways to Help Your Shy Child
1. Educate Yourself on the Topic
The more parents understand what’s going on, the more they can be helpful. A child’s temperament does not have to be their destiny. However, in this moment, they may lean towards timidity and shyness. They may fear novelty and see danger where it does not exist. It can be crucial for your child to try counseling. Just as much, it can be a game-changer if you also work with the therapist to ensure that there’s a carryover into the home (see below).
Your child does not want to be seen as odd or even sick. They want and need your acceptance. Take time to learn about their interests. Talk with them and create a safe space for them to express emotions. Parental validation can enable kids to accept themselves as more than someone doing something “wrong.” Cultivate patience in yourself if you wish your child to adopt the same quality.
3. Don’t Over-Protect
Parental instincts can send you into defensive mode. It’s important, of course, that your child knows they can rely on you. Conversely, sheltering a kid will not lead to a place of healing and growth. Over time, it can amplify social anxiety.
4. Reject Full Immersion, Too
Just because you don’t shelter your child does not mean you instead toss them into the proverbial deep end of the pool. Your kid needs to trust you. Shocking them with full exposure can be traumatic. It may also shatter any chance you have to be seen as an ally.
5. Learn the Four S’s
As Dr. Siegel reminds us, children want and need to be seen, safe, soothed, and secure. The four S’s are crucial for any child to cultivate a strong sense of self.
As mentioned above, therapy is an option to consider. At Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX we have several qualified therapists that specialize in child therapy. Please reach out for a consultation soon. Your child can attend alone or with you. Another option is for each of you to see an individual counselor. This sort of education teamwork doubles the chances of your child finding new approaches to daily behavior. Give us a call today at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
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