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How to Help Your Shy Child Overcome Social Anxiety

Is your child shy? They are not alone! According to a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as many as 50% of teenagers and adults describe themselves as shy. What's more, it is entirely possible to be born with a shy or reserved temperament. What does that mean?

Some of us use the word 'shy' differently. Generally speaking, a shy child may be quiet, sensitive, and more likely to observe and listen during interactions than to command attention. Shy children may be more introverted than their peers or simply feel awkward in social situations.

If that describes your child, don't worry. There are plenty of things you can do as a parent to help them come out of their shell.

Be Supportive

Pushing your child too much or shaming them for being shy is counterproductive. If you want to help your child, one of the very best things you can do for them and for your family is to support them.

Reframe the way you interpret shyness. "Shyness is not a bad thing -- it's a natural response to uncertainty or novelty," The New York Times reports. In fact, many teachers agree that shy students are significantly more well-behaved than their outgoing peers.

When reframing shyness, remember that it is not a fixed state. Your child may exhibit signs of being shy right now or for the first few years of their life without becoming a shy adult. Avoid calling your child shy or labeling them as shy. Assigning that label to your child may make them feel as if it is something they cannot shake.

Espouse The Benefits Of Discomfort

Often, we grow the most when we step out of our comfort zone. Model taking appropriate risks with child. Show them what it looks like to grow from discomfort. Examples may include trying out a new hobby or taking on a leadership role, like working as a chaperone, accepting a parent-teacher association (PTA) position, or agreeing to speak at an event. Describe your feelings leading up to the event with your child and -- most importantly -- what you gained from it.

From there, you can discuss ways your child may safely and constructively embrace discomfort. For example, you may want to encourage them to raise their hand more at school. In public schools, teachers perceive 21% of students as apathetic or lacking interest. In private schools, teachers describe 4% of children this way. Make certain this isn't a problem for your child by asking him or her to take an appropriate risk and speak up more in class.

Model And Teach Your Child Social Skills

Don't be surprised if social skills do not come naturally to your children. Just like we teach kids to walk, talk, read, and write, teaching children how to act in social situations can be a tremendous help.

A great place to start is by modeling appropriate social behavior. For example, if your child looks down and puts their hands behind their back when meeting new people, model looking up, smiling, and exhibiting friendly and inviting body language. Why is this important to teach to children? When meeting others for the first time, they will form 93% of their first impression of you from your body language and tone.

Other ways to teach these skills is to model appropriate social behavior while playing with teddy bears, dolls, or action figures.

Help Your Child Gain Confidence

One of the best ways your child can overcome shyness or shy traits is by gaining confidence. If you witness your child showing healthy social behavior, wait until the appropriate moment and praise them for it. Positive reinforcement encourages behaviors and improves children's self-esteem.

Is your child exhibiting shy behavior? Is he or she the most socially anxious member of the family? Don't worry about it too much. Slowly and constructively work on this by supporting your child, encouraging them to take healthy risks, modeling social skills, and doing what you can to boost their confidence.


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