Do you have a child who feels shy most of the time? Here are some of the very practical activities that you can get your child to do in order to help him or her to overcome his or her shyness.
These activities require parents to be very involved and engaging. It will take some time before you see a change in behavior. However, with lots of patience and support, you will see that your shy child will slowly open up and become confident, approachable and friendly.
- Get your child to talk to various people through day to day activities:
I know of parents who get their 3-4 year olds to order their own food and foot the bill. Getting your child to order food is just one of the many day-to-day activities you can get your child to do to get her to talk and open up. You can practice and role-play how to order at home and demonstrate to your child how to do it. Don’t jump in to save your child at the first sign of distress. Be patient and give her time. Praise her when she does a good job. Practice again if you felt she was struggling and encourage her to do it again next time.
Additionally, you can get your child to talk to various people like policemen, the postman or the security guard. A simple hello and smile can be the first step. If he or she refuses to, you can do it first. Make it a routine to greet someone regularly in front of your child. A neighbor, a cashier, a postman, etc – someone friendly and is always in constant contact with you and your family. When you spot that person routinely the next time, point out to your child saying hey it’s the postman say hello! If you do it repeatedly, chances are that your child will also pick mimic your friendly behavior. Once your child gets more familiar with the person, you can increase the amount of interaction by getting your child to do simple tasks (with supervision of course) such as ‘go get daddy’s parcel’ from the postman.
- Let your child answer questions on her own:
Have you ever been in a situation where you just jump in to help your child answer a question on her behalf? Perhaps it is an unconscious natural reaction. But chances are your child will grow up to be less interactive and perceived as shy if you keep doing that. If you want your child to be engaging, how do you expect her to do so if you keep talking on her behalf? Typically you can spot a child who has a parent who jumps in all the time. They will generally ignore you or stay quiet when you talk to them or they will look straight at their mums or dads and give a ‘please help me answer the question’ look.
Staying silent and waiting for the child to answer any questions or comments on her own is the right thing to do. If the child ignores the question, pause for a moment before repeating it to her. This might take a bit of time and practice with many social interactions. The key is doing it consistently.
- Be a good role model yourself:
As we all know, children mimic their parent’s behavior consciously and unconsciously. If you are a shy person yourself, there is a high chance that your child is shy and reserved. One way to help your child is be the good example yourself. If you are a shy person, how do you expect your child not to be? A good teacher is one who practices what she preaches. Find ways to brush up your own social skills. When there are chances for you to meet new parents or friends, be the first to introduce yourself. Be friendly and approachable. Your child will observe and unconsciously start behaving like you.
- Provide more opportunities for social interactions:
Say yes to all birthday parties and play dates. These events will provide many opportunities for your child to mingle with other children of the same age. If your child does not get invited to many birthday parties or play dates, you can organize them. Start with a few close friends every few months for a few hours. Change and mix the group of friends you invite – boys and girls, slightly older and younger, cousins or neighbors. The main purpose is to provide your child with more opportunities to interact with a variety of friends not only that few close ones. When you are at these events, it is a good opportunity for you to mingle with other parents and improve your own social skills as well.
- Read lots of books:
There is a huge number of books (fiction and non-fiction) in the market targeted for shy children. Pile up on this category of books and read them repeatedly to your child. Before your child enters into a situation where you know she might potentially become shy such as a birthday party, prepare her. Take 10 minutes to read her a story on overcoming shyness before you leave for the party. Use a story with a character in a similar situation and talk to your child on how she can overcome shyness like how the character in the story did. Remind your child of the story just before you arrive and encourage her to behave the same way as the character in the book.