We parents want our children to thrive. And it can hurt when we see a quieter child overlooked, not chosen or otherwise left out in fun, social settings. While we know each child is a unique individual with character traits and tendencies all their own, we still want the best for them and that usually means competence in social settings.
We want our children to have friends and to be cordial with adults. We want them to get invitations to parties and chosen to be part of a team. We want them to be happy. What can we do when a quiet child is seen as “shy?” How can we bolster confidence?
Possible contributing factors to introversion
Being an introvert is not necessarily a bad thing. Quieter people can be perfectly happy and have wonderful social skills. But at times children need a boost to make friends and to feel comfortable in social settings. Reasons for the more negative characteristics of being shy or overly quiet can be:
The characteristics of a “shy” child
Friends and family may label a child “shy” when they notice certain behaviors. Your child may tend to play quietly rather than roar like a dinosaur. They may seem uncomfortable around other children, especially those not yet known. They may seem nervous and unwilling to try something new. They may worry that others won’t like them and may just watch as an outsider when games are played.
The shy child may be seen by others as stand-offish. Other children may believe that they just don’t want to play. And when a child is hesitant to join in the fun, that alone can begin a cycle in which a child has fewer interactions with others – fewer opportunities to practice using social skills, which in turn brings on more discomfort in play situations.
What to do?
Parents can help a quiet, withdrawn child by:
Reading and discussing a book together is a wonderful way to teach perspective-taking, the skill of learning to see things from another’s point of view. This skill is useful to children who struggle with friendships or finding confidence to try new things. They learn that other children worry sometimes too, and that there are ways to solve the problems.
Talking about a book character’s problems is a terrific way for your child to grow in understanding of their own worries or fears. And stories offer a chance to think about social interactions with no pressure to perform.
It takes patience to encourage a timid child. But step by step you can support your child as they become more confident and successful in social settings.
How to Support Your Shy Child by Lilianna Hogan, Grow by WebMD.
7 Ways You Can Support Your Shy Child by Natalia Oliver, Guidepost Montessori
Helping Your Shy Child by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., Psychology Today
Jan is a retired teacher and reading specialist. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and The Exploits of Edna and Gertie. Find Jan at janpierce.net.
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