HEALTH AND SAFETY

How to help a child overcome shyness: tips for concerned parents

Does your child struggle to make friends with other children or hide behind you when he meets people unfamiliar to him? Shyness in children is not a disorder, but simply an aspect of his character, and should not generate much concern.

Psychologists do not associate psychological distress with shyness in children, and it is not something that impairs his social functioning. All it takes is a little patience and a little help, and in most cases everything will work out for the best.

In any case, to alleviate your worries, it might be helpful to learn more, and also to read some tips on how to help your child in relating to others.

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How to help a child overcome shyness: tips for concerned parents
Does your child have a hard time making friends with other children or hiding behind you when he meets people unfamiliar to him? Shyness in children is not a disorder, but simply an aspect of their character, and should not generate much concern. Psychologists do not associate psychological distress with shyness in children, and it is not something that impairs his social functioning. All it takes is a little patience and a little help, and in most cases everything will work out for the best. In any case, to alleviate your worries, it might be helpful to learn more, and also to read some tips on how to help your child in relating to others.
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Shyness is not a disorder, let's not treat it as such
Psychologists tend to be very clear about this: shyness is not a pathology or disorder, and it should not be treated as such. In fact, being shy is merely an aspect of one's character; it may or may not be more present, but it does not, in the long run, lead to problems with social functioning, and often disappears as one grows up.
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Distinguishing shyness and selective mutism
If shyness is one thing, selective mutism is very different. It is normal for your child to have some difficulty relating to others, but there is a limit to everything. The problem to be monitored arises if he turns out to be an extroverted talker within the home, only to freeze up and shut up in social moments with strangers or classmates or playmates. This is a real disorder in which words are literally blocked by anxiety. Another sign to monitor is sudden shyness. If your child has always been outgoing, and suddenly begins to withdraw into himself and shush, then it is necessary for parents to intervene to understand the source of the problem.
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The first step for parents is to accept this aspect of character
If you wish to give your child a helping hand by helping him overcome his social shyness, the first step is to accept and acknowledge that it is so. Stopping seeing it as a pathological problem is the second step, focusing on and developing the many other positive aspects of his character.
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Children respond well to reassurance
Reassurance and patience are an often successful weapon. It is necessary to make the child understand that he is not obligated or forced to do anything he does not want to do (at least in this situation). For example, should he be at a birthday party, try to explain to him that he is not forced to go play with the other children until he feels ready to do so.
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Avoiding an activity increases the fear of the activity itself
In the case of children who are shy, and who have a lot of problems relating to others, it is very important not to isolate him and to continue to expose him to protected and controlled social times. If a child is shy, and therefore wishes to avoid interactions with others, you should not indulge him but, calmly and reasonably, he should be exposed to situations in which he should put himself out there and try to overcome his shyness. Always, of course, without forcing him.
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Don't label it in front of others
If your child finds it difficult to interact, perhaps, with other adults or with little friends, you should not apologize for his behavior. Saying something like, "Excuse me, he's shy," will only make him feel at fault, when in fact he may simply be hiding a more sensitive personality than others. It would be better to encourage him by explaining that if he does not feel like greeting verbally, he can always do so with a gesture or a smile, or you can encourage him to greet while emphasizing that he does not have to do so. Again, in most cases time fixes this aspect.
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Don't force him to do something he doesn't want to do
Children should not become mirrors of their parents. If you are talkative, they don't necessarily have to become like you, so in that sense don't force them too much. Instead, invite them to talk about how they feel, their feelings and what makes them uneasy in certain situations. This will also help them express their discomfort in words, and thus understand it even better.
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Praising it increases security
Praising your child increases his self-esteem and his ability to relate. So, don't miss opportunities to let him know you are proud of him, and praise him when he finds the strength to do something he has never done before.
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Sports are good for you, but under certain conditions
It is very often said that team sports promote social interaction. Well, if you have ever played soccer, or basketball, you know that this is not always the case. The locker room environment, especially in boys, is often cruel and competitive, where small groups form within the team, so beware. The key thing is to choose together with the child the sport to play, without imposing it on him. Also, you could reassure him of your presence during games, or try to get to know some other children before starting the activity.
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Proceed in small steps
Overcoming shyness is obviously a step-by-step process. Perhaps, your child feels like inviting a friend home to play, but only one. The next time maybe he will call two, and so on. These are complicated situations but they should not be alarming; the key thing is to make him feel safe and respect his personal time.
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