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Shyness, Seeking a Professional, & Back to School

 

Note:  I’m on leave for the summer.  While I’m out, I’ll be reposting some of my more popular posts.  See you again in the Fall.

 Short post about going Back to School.  3 little tips…

When Should a Parent Seek Professional Help?  Sometimes, therapy is most helpful before problems get entrenched. 

Shyness and Your Child.  A three-part series, actually!  Shyness is so often misunderstood, these posts hope to prevent that.

Shyness and Your Child–Part 3

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.  In part two, I listed 5 (big) steps you can take to help your shy child.  But sometimes ya just really want some helpful tips… so that’s what today’s post is all about.

Some tricks for parents that can help with shyness in a pinch:

  • Daily agenda.  Sit down together at breakfast, and talk about the day.  What will you do, who will you see, what will be expected.  This will help your child prepare.
  • Arriving early & intros.  Wherever you go, get there a few minutes early.  Give your child 10 minutes to look around the room, see what/who is there.  Let them acclimate to the space.  If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of being late to an important meeting, you know how your brain takes a few minutes to start firing.  So the flip side of that is to show up early, so that your child gets additional time and space to feel centered, calm, and ready to take on their challenges.
  • Remembering transitions.  Transitions are hard for the vast majority of children.  We expect children to make dozens of transitions a day, from switching between caregivers, activities, toys, etc.  You’ll help your shy kid out by giving extra time, support, love, and warning before transitions.
  • New school: tours & interviews.  When your child starts a new school, visit it a few times in advance  (more visits for younger kids).  See their classroom, meet the teachers, find the bathroom and the lunchroom, the playground, the main office and the nurse’s office.  Meet as many people as possible–each of these experiences will make the BIG event of her first day an easier one.
  • When you talk with your child about shyness, try to use the phrase “You feel shy” as opposed to “You ARE shy.”  It’s a small difference, but it can be empowering to frame shyness as a temporary feeling as opposed to a character trait.
  • Along those lines, it can be very empowering to “reframe.”  If someone labels your child shy, perhaps you can substitute one of these descriptions instead:  reserved, a good listener, focused, peaceful, thoughtful, deep, discerning, calm.

If you’d like to watch a video I made on shyness–with the information here plus more–you can do so here.  My video about how to talk to your kids about sex is available here right now too… and for just another week or so they are both free!

Shyness and Your Child–part 2

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.

Shyness and Your Child–part 1

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.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on shyness.  Part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.