How to Break Your Child Out of His Shell

Dealing with shyness can be embarrassing for parents and stressful for kids. Unfortunately, well-meaning parents sometimes make social interaction even more difficult for shy kids. So how do you deal with a child that refuses to leave your side at birthday parties and clams up with strange adults? Here are a few simple things that parents can do to help their kids break out of their shells.

Helping Shy Kids Come Out of Their Shell
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  1. Accept shyness as a normal part of growing up.

    Not many parents realize that shyness is normal behavior in toddlers. Like other adults, parents of shy children remember outgoing children more easily than they recall shy kids, making them believe that shyness is rare or unusual. Accept your child’s shyness as a part of his growing up and you’ve taken the first step to making social interaction easier on both of you.

  2. Refrain from criticizing your child in front of others.

    Labeling your child as “shy” is unhelpful and can even be damaging. Children may feel hurt by the label, or accept it as a legitimate reason for their shy behavior. Whether you are speaking to your child or are within your child’s earshot, make sure you do not refer to your child as being shy.

  3. Prepare your child for uncomfortable situations.

    When you are going to a social gathering that you know your child will be uncomfortable in, it helps to prepare him in advance for it. Explain where you are going, what will happen there, how many people there will be and how long you are going to be there. Depending on the situation and your child’s ability to take in all the information, you may want to add a few more details. If you are expecting to meet people he knows, tell him. If there are going to be games or activities he will enjoy, let him know. It also helps to arrive early so that he can meet people as they come in as opposed to suddenly being confronted with a large gathering.

  4. Help your child get comfortable, and quietly pull back.

    Your child is likely to be more comfortable making new friends or being with others when you are with him. If this is the case, ease him into uncomfortable situations by accompanying him and then quietly leave once he is engaged. Come back later and let him know that you were gone so that he knows he can handle similar situations on his own.

  5. Engage him in small, challenging situations.

    A great way to help your child get comfortable with interacting with strangers is to give him small tasks where the focus is more on the end result than on the interaction itself. Ask him to give the order at a restaurant, buy entry tickets at an amusement park or pay for the groceries at the supermarket. Completing these tasks not only makes him comfortable with social interaction, it also boosts his self-confidence which in turn helps in overcoming shyness.

  6. Don’t pressurize your child.

    Your active support is important in helping your child overcome his shyness. However, putting pressure on him to engage with others may only make matters worse. Your child is bound to take some time to break out of his shell, and he is the only person that can decide when he is ready to become more outgoing. Until then, your continued positive support will make things easier for him and help speed the process along.

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