Shy children ages 5 to 12 may not adapt as well as their peers in the classroom or on the playground, the American Association of Pediatrics reports.
Worse, worried parents face a dilemma: Forcing a shy child into social situations is typically counterproductive, said Holly Schweitzer Dunn, a clinical social worker with Mind Body Health Associates of Findlay.
So the No. 1 thing for parents to remember is to take it slow, and be patient.
“When the parent knows that the child is going to enter into a social situation, prepare, prepare, prepare,” Dunn said.
How? Try Dunn’s tips:
Role-play. “For example, give them the words to use: ‘Hi, my name is Holly. Would you like to play?’ so that they don’t have to think about it. It can almost become sort of a habit while they’re waiting for themselves to feel more comfortable in those situations.”
Practice. “If there’s a dance class they go to every week, on the way there, go through what to expect. ‘We’re going to go in, you’re going to put your coat on the hook, you’re going to say hello to your teacher, you’re going to say hello to the girl beside you,’ so on and so forth.”
Debrief. “After the experience, talk with them about it. Where were they comfortable? Where were they uncomfortable? What words did they remember to say? What words do they want to say next time?”
Fortunately, most shy children do well in relationships and social settings after they get past an initial adjustment period, the AAP reports. “Be very specific and walk them through step-by-step so that they’re comfortable in their environment,” Dunn said.