As parents, it can be heartbreaking when our kids rarely make an attempt to engage in social conversation or take initiative to make friends.
In these situations, we often simply write it off as them being a shy kid or an introvert and that it’s a personality trait that will stick with them throughout their life.
It’s important to realize, however, that being a shy child isn’t an ailment or handicap.
We all experience some level of bashfulness at different points in our lives (especially when we’re put in an uncomfortable environment or situation).
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But when shyness gets to a level where our child is constantly unhappy, steps need to be taken in order to mend the situation.
Let’s take a look at a few tips for helping shy kids and helping them break out of their shell.
1Help Them Build Confidence
There’s a reason that the best players on youth sports teams are often the most outgoing.
The confidence that they gain from their abilities on the field transition to them being much more willing to engage in conversation.
But your son or daughter doesn’t have to be a sports star in order to gain confidence.
From playing an instrument to coloring, there are all kinds of activities that they can engage in while working to build their skills and confidence.
One of the best ways to build our child’s confidence is by exposing them to different activities, finding out what they enjoy doing, and encouraging them to continue to improve at it.
As their confidence grows, we can then put them in social situations (such as classes, events, or get-togethers) with other children that share their interests.
In the end, this process helps put them in an environment that is conducive to helping them open up and make friends that share similar interests.
2Teach Them How to Interact
Even if we think of ourselves as extroverts, we often forget how much of our social interaction is routine.
When we see a friend or colleague at the grocery store, we smile and say, “Hey, how are you?!?”
Or when we get to work on a Monday, we ask our colleague, “How was your weekend?”
To us, these social scripts are just part of our subconscious.
To a shy kid, however, these simple phrases are anything but routine.
Fortunately, we can help our children develop the confidence to start conversations by doing things like:
● Teaching them to greet people with a smile
● Teaching them to maintain eye contact while talking
● Practicing social scripts with them so they understand how to start a conversation (hint: asking a question is always a great conversation starter)
● Showing them how to compliment someone appropriately
● Teaching them to take their time with their response and listen to understand rather than listen to respond
At the end of the day, a large majority of our conversations don’t involve any sort of witty banter (as this is often something we do with close friends).
Teaching our children the routine aspects of conversation can help them become more confident in starting one. These are great tips for helping shy kids.
3Model Social Behavior
As a parent, it’s crucial to understand that our children often learn by imitating us or other adults.
If we’re bashful about engaging in conversation with other adults, there’s a good chance that our children will emulate that in their own lives.
One way to give yourself an opportunity to model positive social behavior for your child is to organize social events with other adults that involve your children.
Whether it’s close friends, family, or just acquaintances, allowing them to see you interact with other adults is a great way to encourage them to do the same with their peers.
My wife and I make a point to organize a monthly game night with about a dozen close friends and family which rotates between 3-4 different houses.
During this time, we also setup plenty of games and activities for all the kids (and allow them to organize and play them on their own).
This has worked wonders for helping our youngest son, who was once very shy, break out of his shell and actually look forward to being around his new friends.
4Seek Help From a Professional
One of the main reasons that children become overly shy is due to severe anxiety.
Growing up, my older sister dealt with severe anxiety and it wasn’t until my parents introduced her to a psychologist that she began making significant progress towards becoming more outgoing.
Today, she serves on several boards for non-profit organizations and even does some public speaking (something that would never have happened if she hadn’t gone to therapy).
My point here is that, in some cases, seeking professional help is necessary in order to help our children break free from the fears that cause anxiety and shyness.
And it’s certainly not something that we should look down on.
As parents, our goal is to help our children live the best life possible.
And as heartbreaking as it is to see our children have to deal with being shy and unhappy, there are steps that we can take to help.
Hopefully this list of tips will help you on your journey.