Do you worry about your child’s shyness? Do other people label your child shy? Do you wonder if shyness is a problem?
Shyness isn’t always a problem. Really! Humans come in all different temperaments, and thank goodness for that. American popular culture tends to favor social, outgoing people, but (a) other cultures send different messages, and (b) neither way is “right or wrong”. Rather, it is FAR more important that your child feel comfortable the “just way they are,” to quote Mr. Rogers.
Developmental Stages & Shyness
First of all, consider your child’s developmental stage. Young toddlers go through stages of separation anxiety, but so do older kids, it just looks different. The most prominent period for this (later) is when children start kindergarten. This is a huge transition for kids, and results in shyness, or regression, or a host of other behavioral changes. It’s normal. In those situations parents need to continue to support and love their child, talking about the changes and your child’s feelings and how to cope. Things will get better with time.
A second period of developmental shyness is normal around the early stages of puberty, too. Body changes are accompanied by greater pressures from peers, and emotional and hormonal shifts. It’s a tough time, and shyness is often part of the picture. Again, just keep supporting, loving, talking, and teaching and things will get better with time.
Introverts & Extroverts
An extrovert is someone who ‘gets their energy’ from interacting with others. An introvert is someone who gets their energy from within, from being alone. Which one is your child? A shy child might be a perfectly happy and content introvert, with no need for fixing or changing.
Is your child happy? Do they think their shyness is a problem?
I encourage you to ask them! In a non-confrontational way–perhaps when it’s just the two of you in the car going somewhere–bring up the topic of shyness. For example: “John, did you have a good time yesterday at Dan’s birthday party? If your son says “No,” talk a little about why he didn’t have a good time. Perhaps he himself felt that his feelings of shyness kept him from enjoying himself. If you son says “yes,” you might say “You know, I noticed when I picked you up that you were playing by yourself in the back room.” Perhaps this will spark a conversation. But simply, your goal is to find out whether your child themselves thinks that shyness is a problem.
“When I Feel Angry” is a children’s book by a therapist, Cornelia Maude Spelman. She’s also the author of “When I Feel Sad,” reviewed earlier here. When I Feel Angry is also aimed at the younger crowd, from apx 2-9 or so years of age, depending on your child’s reading and interest level.
The main character of this book is a rabbit. She talks about times when she feels angry:
“I feel angry when I have to stop a game at the best part and clean up my room, or when we finally go swimming it rains.”
She describes how anger feels:
“Anger is a strong, hot feeling. When I feel angry, I want to say something mean, or yell, or hit.”
She elaborates on the different between a feeling and an action taken in response to a feeling (did I mention the author is a therapist? ;^) )
“But feeling like I want to is not the same as doing it. Feel can’t hurt anyone or get me in trouble, but doing can.”
And then our little rabbit tells kids how she handles her angry feelings:
“I can take deep breaths and blow the air out, hard, to send the anger out of me. I can make my anger cooler by running, riding my bike, or doing something I really like to do.”
The last few pages acknowledge that sometimes anger is a healthy response (yea!) an covers three more important points: sometimes things can’t be changed, sometimes it’s “me” that needs to change, and sometimes it’s “you” that needs to change. (again, this is a very healthy message about anger!)
So, consider this another ‘highly recommended” book to keep in your child’s library. If you’d like to buy this book, you can click on the picture of it below–it’s a link to the book’s page on Amazon.