What is shyness?

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Shyness in children: Overview

Shyness is common in children. Life experiences can sometimes cause it. But for many children, shyness is natural.

Being shy can make social settings scary. For a very shy child, making friends and adapting at school can be hard. Very shy children may become withdrawn. This may cause social problems later in life. Shyness that causes problems with your child's daily life may be a sign of another problem. Counseling may help your child.

Most children learn to deal with their shyness, make friends, and function well over time. You can help your child develop social skills. You do this by giving gentle guidance for social situations.

Parents who are dependable, consistent, respectful, and responsive to their children help them to form a sense of security. Let your child know that they belong. When a child is doing well or trying, let them know. This positive feedback can help your child build healthy self-esteem.

How can you care for your shy child?

  • Help your child learn how to make and keep friends.
    • Teach your child social skills. Show your child how to introduce themself, start conversations, deal with teasing, and politely join in play.
    • Set an example for healthy relationships with your partner, relatives, and friends.
    • Encourage your child to talk about their concerns and problems with making friends.
    • Talk to your child about behaviors you see when they are with friends. Do this later so you don't embarrass your child. Offer suggestions for improvement.
  • Don't push your child into uncomfortable situations. Doing this can hurt rather than build their self-confidence.
  • Reassure your child that you accept them.
  • Encourage positive experiences with peers. Try sports and clubs where your child can feel success and acceptance.
  • Treat your child with respect. Ask for your child's views and opinions. Think about them seriously, and give meaningful and realistic feedback.
  • Listen to your child. When your child shares something with you, give them your undivided attention. Listen carefully. Don't ridicule or shame your child.
  • Let your child know that they are special. Give praise often. Even if your child's finished work does not meet your standard, find at least one good thing to say.
  • Give a positive response to your child's efforts and interests. Make specific comments, such as "I really like the face on this person you drew."
  • Support your child during their failures. Make sure your child knows that your love is unconditional, even when your child has made a mistake.
  • Tell your child you love them for who they are, not for what they do.
  • Encourage communication. Ask open-ended questions such as, "Tell me more about the math test."

Shyness: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if shyness gets in the way of your child's daily life.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.