Children are born with different temperaments and it’s really important for parents to accept and embrace them all unconditionally.
Some children are naturally outgoing and sociable, while others are more introverted and shy.
Children’s social workers
It is possible to notice what temperament your child has from the time he or she is a baby. Parents who are in tune with their children and who respond to their cues can have a very positive impact on how their children adapt to different social situations.
Some children who are labeled as shy just need some time to open up. They observe their environment first, and then interact with it.
Other children might desperately want to jump in and engage with people, but are held back by anxiety or fear.
Here are some tips to help your child reach his or her full potential when it comes to social interaction:
1. Involve your child in everyday activities, and explain to them what is happening in the process.
From the time your child is a baby, talk to him or her constantly about the world. Narrating what is going on can help your child feel more comfortable and secure.
For example: “We are at grandma’s house now. Look, there’s grandpa, he is going to carry you and kiss you. Now we are leaving, I will wave bye bye.” Of course, you can adapt the content of your narration depending on the child’s age.
2. Tell your child beforehand what is going to happen.
Anxious children like to know what to expect. Having specific expectations helps them deal with their shyness or anxiety. If you are going out, tell them in advance what is going to happen and what you expect of them. For example: “We are going to get in the car. You will sit in your car seat and mommy will drive to the park. We will meet mommy’s friends there (list their names here) and you will play in the sand.”
3. Respond to your child’s cues, while gently encouraging them to move out of their comfort zone.
For example, if you are at a birthday party and your child wants to sit on your lap the whole time, don’t force him or her not to. You can however, point to different things at the party and talk about how fun it would be to try them. Your child will eventually feel comfortable as long as he or she knows you are there for them unconditionally.
4. Lead by example.
Children learn through what we do, much more than what we say. When you meet people, greet them in a friendly way. Get down on the floor and play with the children your son or daughter is scared to approach. Model courteous behaviour wherever you go.
5. Respect your child’s fears.
Your child might be afraid of something which is completely harmless, and so you assume that his or her fears are unjustified and silly. However, it is important to acknowledge your child’s emotions. For example, if your child is afraid of water, you can say, “I know you are scared. I understand what you are feeling. We will not go in the water until you are ready.” Approach the water slowly, and ask your child for permission to take another step. When your child realises that he or she will not be forced into doing anything he is afraid of, his or her fears will slowly melt away.
6. Boost your child’s self-esteem.
Talk to your child about the positive traits you see in him or her. Don’t focus on what you perceive as a negative quality. For example, if your child is shy, don’t label him or her as such. Instead, tell him or her how proud of them you are because of their gentleness, kindness, patience, etc. and speak about situations where your child displayed those positive traits.
7. Present your child with choices.
Children who are anxious do not like to feel like they are being put in a corner. For example, your child might not feel comfortable kissing people hello, but might be okay with a high-five or a hand-shake. Tell your child that either is okay.
Many children who are categorised as shy grow up to be attentive, sensitive to other people’s needs, and deep thinkers. Provided with a loving, supportive and nurturing environment, these children can grow to their full potential.