Do you worry about your child’s shyness?  Do other people label your child shy?  Do you wonder if shyness is a problem?

In part one of this series about shyness, I talked about times/situations where shyness is normal and not a problem at all.  But perhaps you are sure that shyness IS a problem… so today’s post lists 5 steps you can take to help your shy child.

1.  Change yourself. First of all, if you are extroverted and outgoing, you might benefit from taking a step back, adjusting your expectations a little.  However, if you are on the other end of the spectrum, take a look at your own habits or tendencies towards shyness.  In what ways are you shy like your child?  Try increasing your person to person interactions.  Be the first one to stick out your hand for an introduction.  Invite friends over for dinner sometime soon.  Make small but noticeable changes in your own social ability.  Talk to your child about what you’re doing.   Role-modeling is very powerful. I always tell parents that the most effective way to get your child to change is to let them see you changing.

2.  Help your child strengthen their self-esteem.  A child who feels good about themselves is much more likely to take the risk to reach out to another person.  BTW, self-esteem does not come from hearing “good job!” 15 times a day, it comes from being challenged, working hard, and persevering.

3.  Social skills. Make sure your child has a better-than-average knowledge of social skills.  IE, what do you say or do in various situations…  There are many good children’s books that help with this, for example: How to Be A Friend.  For parents, the book “Unwritten rules of friendship”  is a great guide to help YOU know what your child needs to know or do in social situations.

4.  Boost your child’s emotional intelligence. A child who understands their own emotions, and those of others around him be more able to navigate social situations, understand their own needs, and those of others.  So teach your child about emotions.  Make emotions a part of your family’s daily conversation.  Identify your own emotions out loud sometimes, and reflect back to your child what you think they are feeling sometimes.  For example: “oh, man, you seem really frustrated right now.”  Then take it a step further and teach your child coping techniques for dealing with those emotions.

5.  Take small steps. Sit down with your child and make a list of small steps he could take.  Little ways he could reach out, like: simply saying hi to the kid next to him on the swings, or agreeing to a playdate with a child he only knows a little bit.  Support your child is taking these steps regularly–but not all at once!  Remember that change takes a long time–months or years even, and it happens in tiny, little chunks.  I like to say that it’s like lifting weights and building muscle.  The first time you do it, the little steps are very hard, but the more you do them, the easier they get.  By the way parents, do make sure to notice the positive changes, no matter how small, and praise your child for them.

That’s it for today… stay tuned for part 3–concrete and easy(-er) tips & tricks that help with shyness.