Shy children: How can we help them?

Shyness often worries parents. They expect their children to interact quickly and, once they are with others, to make friends. However, everyone is different; we tell you how to help shy children.

Many of the behaviors of the little ones are learned from their parents, so it is super important that you encourage, not force them, to interact with other children and that you teach by example.

Research from the University of San Luis in Argentina indicates that children with difficulties relating to or being accepted by their classmates tend to present long-term problems linked to school dropout and violent behavior. What is shown is that social skills also allow the assimilation of social norms.

We recommend: 9 Tips to help your children make friends

Children learn social skills from their parents. Photo: Pixabay
Children learn social skills from their parents. Photo: Pixabay

What is shyness?

Shyness refers to the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or discomfort that a person experiences when approaching others, especially in new situations or with people outside the immediate environment, explains the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona.

This institution details that shyness is due to factors, such as the environment and personality, but it can also be due to specific stages of life, such as childhood since all children are shy to some degree during their growth.

“Being shy isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the degree of shyness doesn’t go to extremes and turn into anxiety or social phobia. Having a certain degree of shyness can be beneficial as it makes us more cautious. The key point is to know how to deal with it and get the best out of each child, reinforcing their self-esteem”.

Hospital Sant Joan de Déu

It may interest you: Friendship among children: Why is it so important to have friends?

Shyness may be part of your child's personality. Photo: Shutterstock
Shyness may be part of your child’s personality. Photo: Shutterstock

Causes of shyness

Erika Villavicencio-Ayub, a researcher at the Faculty of Psychology at UNAM, commented that children learn from what they see at home, so their way of relating will be influenced by the experience at home and family dynamics. These are the main causes for a child to be shy:

  • What place does your child have in the house? Have you met his needs? Depending on how the child is perceived in his home, it will be the way he expresses himself with others. Self-esteem is a reflection of experiences.
  • Aggressive responses. Answers like, You know nothing! can affect how he feels valued.
  • Passive-aggressive language: Some expressions such as Don’t be silly or other sexist ones damage the way your child relates to others.
  • Pandemic: The confinement caused young children to spend half their lives at home. It affects the development of their social skills since they do not know how to interact with others because they were locked up, explains the UNAM researcher.
  • Personality: Not all children like to be around people; some prefer small groups and are more sensitive to new situations, says the Nemours Kids Health.
Passive-aggressive language has a negative effect on your child. Photo: Shutterstock
Passive-aggressive language has a negative effect on your child. Photo: Shutterstock

Psychologist Villavicencio emphasizes, “We are all different and interact differently. Some children are more solitary, but the important thing is that separating themselves from others is not because there is a fear involved that prevents them from integrating with their peers”.

How can we identify shyness?

These are some tips from Hospital Sant Joan de Déu to detect if your little one is shy:

  • Lack of interactive behaviors. He does not participate or ask questions in class, has difficulty starting conversations with others, does not have the initiative to do any activity, or is reserved and distant.
  • Behaviors of fear, apprehension, or anxiety. These feelings are experienced by your little one when expressing an opinion or acting in the presence of other people.
  • Problems related to self-esteem. Feelings of inferiority accompanied by lack of defense. To avoid socializing, some children may have psychosomatic symptoms (tummy aches, dizziness, headaches, etc.).

How can you help your child?

  • Don’t label him: Try not to tell your child that he is shy to justify his behavior in new situations. Let him adapt little by little.
  • Quality time: Allocate time to be with your child and get involved in his affairs.
  • Games: Through playful activities, you can find out if something happens to your little one.
  • Open places: Take your little one to places like the park where he can interact with other children.
  • Limit the use of screens: When they are with the family or in a meeting, do not let them use their cell phones or video games to prevent them from isolating themselves.
  • Maintain communication with the school: This way, you will know if your child has any problems, even if there are bullying problems.
  • Talk with your child: Try to ask him what he liked most about his day, what he didn’t like, and if he had fun. If you ask him how it went, the conversation will not go smoothly.
  • Acknowledge his merits: You must value your little one’s positive attitude towards shyness; this will help you trust his abilities and make you feel more secure on future occasions.
  • Avoid forcing him: Do not insist that your child say hello or not hide. Let him act naturally.
Open spaces like parks are a good place for your child to interact with other children. Photo: Pixabay
Open spaces like parks are a good place for your child to interact with other children. Photo: Pixabay

Do not forget that all children are different and each one has his rhythm to making friends.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version