How to help shy kids

Is Your Child Struggling to Form Connections? Here Are Some Tips to Help Them

Written by Lilianna Hogan

It's completely natural for a child to feel shy. It's not uncommon for children to feel as though they are on display, to shy away from meeting new people, or to feel more comfortable watching from the sidelines rather than be in the middle of the action. However, there are ways you can support your child and help with their anxiety.

What Does Shyness Look Like in Children?

It's common for children to feel nervous in new situations or around new people. Unfortunately, our society often praises more outgoing personalities over introverted ones, and this can put pressure on children as they go through natural stages of development. In more naturally introverted children, this can cause feelings of self-consciousness. 

Despite all this, shyness can be associated with the following benefits for children:

  • Achieving academic excellence
  • Listening and better following rules
  • Being a great listener 

Some signs that your child’s shyness might be severely impacting them and that they may need help coping with it include:

  • Decreased social skills or involvement in socialization
  • Fewer friends
  • Less participation in enriching activities such as sports, dance, drama, or music
  • Feelings of isolation, loneliness, unimportance, and self-consciousness
  • Unnecessary stress over the opinions of others leading to a lessened ability for your child to reach their full potential
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Physical affectations like blushing, stammering, and trembling

Causes of Shyness

While each case is unique, some possible causes of your child’s shyness could be:

  • Genetics. Certain genes can affect a child's disposition and personality. 
  • Personality. Some people are naturally more sensitive and prone to intimidation from external circumstances than others. This could be true of your child. 
  • Learned behavior. Children often learn how to behave by watching their parents. If you are shy, you might be teaching your child to be shy. 
  • Family relationships. Sometimes, children who do not feel secure in their family or with the adults in their life become shy. Parents who are overbearing or overprotective can also instill shyness or fear in their children. 
  • Lack of social interaction. Children who are deprived of human interaction in the crucial first few years of their development may be shy. 
  • Intense criticism. Children who are teased, bullied, or otherwise criticized by important figures like parents, teachers, or friends tend to be shy.  
  • Fear of failure. Children who feel like they've failed or who have been continuously pushed beyond their limits can present as shy. 

How to Help Your Child with Their Shyness

While shyness is a natural stage in development that your child will most likely grow out of, there are ways you can support them. Some things you can do to help them include:

  • Never label your child as shy. If your child knows they're shy, they may start to criticize themselves when they exhibit shy behavior. The idea that shyness is bad or that it means there's something wrong with your child will only make them feel shyer.
  • Accept your child. Never make fun of your child for being shy. Instead, make an effort to let them know you accept and love them as they are. 
  • Try to understand. Ask your child about their shyness. Try to understand their fears or hesitations about showing the world who they are.  
  • Let your child know you relate to them. Tell your child about times that you felt shy. Talk to them about how you felt better. Children look up to their parents, and knowing that you overcame your anxiety will give them an immense sense of strength and empowerment. 
  • Model confident behavior. There is no better way for your child to learn how to act than by watching you model it. 
  • Talk about the benefits of being outgoing. Share stories of how being outgoing has helped you in your life. Talk about behaviors you would like your child to adopt. Praise your child when they model these behaviors. 
  • Goal set. Set benchmarks for your child to hit to make them more comfortable socializing. Be sure to make the goals small and achievable. They could be as small as saying hello to one person each day. 
  • Expose your child to new things. Try to show your child new things and expose them to new experiences. Be supportive if they exhibit more extroverted characteristics over time. 
  • Make sure your child can do things they're good at. If your child can engage with activities they love and are good at, they can derive a great sense of purpose and confidence. Praise them when they are good at something and provide them with opportunities to do those things. By participating in activities they enjoy, they might even have an easier time connecting with children with similar interests.

13 Tips to Help Children Manage Social Anxiety

Parents often ask me how to help children who are "shy." But what does "shy" even mean?

Some children who are considered "shy" are highly sensitive, meaning very aware of and strongly affected by their environment. Others are introverted, meaning that they need time away from other people to renew their energy. Some children are so absorbed in their own projects and ideas that they're simply less interested in social interaction. Some feel more anxious when their "attachment people" aren't there as backup.

And the rest of us who think we're "shy" usually mean that we feel awkward or anxious in social situations. A large NIMH study in 2011 found that half of all teenagers in the United States think of themselves as "shy." In fact, half of all adults think of themselves as "shy," and many more say that they were "shy" as children. That's a lot of us. And yet most of those adults feel able to successfully handle most social situations they encounter, at least most of the time. They've gained confidence through their experience that even if they're sometimes a bit apprehensive, they'll be able to manage.

So let's say, for the purposes of this article, that you're reading this because you want to support your child to become more comfortable in social situations. Hopefully, you appreciate your unique child, who probably notices social nuances that other children miss. But it's natural to worry if your child seems to feel anxious with other people. We all want our children to make friends easily, to feel comfortable asking questions at school, to speak up for themselves.

The good news is that most kids can learn to manage social anxiety so they can connect happily with others, enter new groups, and speak up for themselves. Some just need a little extra support.

1. Nurture your child by noticing her needs and responding to them.

Highly sensitive baby chimps given to extremely nurturing mothers became leaders in their group, while their equally sensitive siblings raised by less responsive chimp mothers seemed anxious and fearful throughout life. Responsive mothering helps sensitive little ones learn to calm themselves and manage their reactions. That allows their heightened sensitivity to become an asset, because it makes them more aware of the needs of their peers and better at negotiating group situations.

2. Empathize with your child’s worries and avoid shaming him.

Acknowledging what your child feels, without negative judgment, helps him to feel good about himself. Giving him the impression that there is something wrong with him will just make him feel worse about himself, and therefore more insecure. Empathizing with your child will also help him develop empathy, which will enhance his social skills and help him connect with others.

3. Teach your child to trust their inner compass -- and that discomfort is okay.

Most of us think that when we're uncomfortable, we should run in the other direction. But discomfort is part of most new situations, and that means it is part of how we grow. Teach your child that it is okay to feel uncomfortable. When she feels uncomfortable, her job is to notice that, and soothe herself so that she can think clearly.

Then, evaluate the situation. Is there actual danger? In that case, seek trustworthy help.

But danger is rare. Most of the time, discomfort signals a new situation. In that case, maybe there is something new to learn, or someone she will enjoy meeting. Then, her job is to reassure herself, keep paying attention to the situation, and support herself to take small steps toward engaging with the newness. Over time, positive experiences will build trust, and she may come to enjoy and value that process of discovery. 

4. Model confident behavior with other people. Kids learn from watching us.

That means being friendly to strangers, offering help to others, and modeling a relaxed attitude about social interactions of all kinds.

5. Teach your child basic social skills to respond to both adults and children.

Kids often need to be taught to make eye contact, shake hands, smile, and respond to polite chit-chat appropriately. Make games out of social skills and practice at home. Just grab two teddy bears and have them act out scenarios in a funny way to get your child laughing, which defuses the child's anxiety. During your show, ask your child frequently "What should he say? What should she do?"

6. Help your child learn how to make friends.

Role play with your child how to notice and respond when another child initiates, how to join a game at the playground, how to introduce themselves to another child at a party, and how to initiate a playdate. For instance, kids who are successful in joining groups of kids usually observe first, and find a way to fit into the group, rather than just barging in. It can really help to read books about social skills with your child and then role play. Several good books are listed at the end of this article, for children of different ages.

7. Coach your child to express her needs and stand up for herself in social situations.

All children need the confidence that they can handle what comes up when parents aren't around. For instance, every child needs to know how to respond to affronts with phrases like  "It's my turn now. ... I was still using that..... I don't like it when you say that.... I am not going to play with you if you say hurtful things to me." This is especially important when peers tease or bully. Roleplaying is essential in learning skills, play is very helpful in managing anxiety, and reading books helps teach kids that they aren't alone or powerless. Asking "What would you do?" is invaluable in helping kids think through possible responses and outcomes.

If you're concerned about your child's ability to stand up for himself, one good book to help you coach your child, offering scripts and strategies, is Scott Cooper's Sticks and Stones: 7 Ways Your Child Can Deal with Teasing, Conflict, and Other Hard Times. Several books for kids on how to handle bullying are listed at the end of this article. You may also want to read the article 11 Ways to Empower Your Child Against Bullying on this website, which has more specific suggestions and book recommendations.

8. Don’t label your child as shy.

Instead, acknowledge his worries and point out that he can overcome his fears. For instance,


“Sometimes it takes you awhile to warm up in a new situation. Remember Lorenzo’s birthday party, how you held my hand all through the games? But by the end, you were having lots of fun with the other kids.”

9. Teach your child effective strategies for dealing with feelings of social awkwardness.

One very helpful approach to social anxiety is to accept it as a part of normal life that affects most people. Then, reassure yourself that you’re okay, and focus on others rather than yourself. For instance, reassure your child that most people feel socially awkward at least sometimes. Then remind your child that she doesn’t have to be interesting, just interested, and teach her to ask other kids questions and listen to their answers. Brainstorm with her how she might handle a situation that makes her nervous:


“If you feel nervous at the party today, what could you do to make yourself more comfortable? Could you hang out with one of the kids you know from school? Could you offer to help serve the refreshments? What could you say to reassure yourself? What do you think you might talk with the other kids about?”

Once she knows she can handle whatever comes up, she'll feel more ready to tackle a new experience.

10. Help your child develop social confidence by providing small daily opportunities to interact with others.

Socially anxious children need downtime, of course, especially if they're introverts. But they also need plenty of opportunities to practice their social skills. Remember that empathizing doesn’t mean being over-protective. If your child is worried, remind him that he can do hard things. Talk every night at dinner about one hard thing each person in the family did that day. Applaud every little step your child takes on his own.

11. Don't push your child to perform.

Some children like telling jokes or showing off their new abilities for Grandma, but many kids hate it. Enjoy your unique child without making him feel like he's only valued if he performs. If you have the video rolling on your phone and your child asks you to stop, stop. She's allowed to enjoy life without feeling the pressure to perform.

12. Remember that one good friend is worth many acquaintances.

Some parents worry if their child isn't the life of the party. But what's important is that your child feel connected, like she has someone she can talk to, or someone he wants to play with at recess. It's not necessary to have a lot of friends, just a few good ones.

13. Don’t create social anxiety by teaching young children to be afraid of strangers.

Instead, teach your child that he or she should always be with you, or with a teacher or trusted babysitter. If her special adult is with her, your child doesn’t need to be afraid of strangers. Once she’s old enough to begin walking home from school by herself, you can begin discussing how to keep herself safe.

14. If your child seems generally fearful, consider that she's got some tears and fears inside that need to be expressed.

When kids experience something scary and don't feel safe at that moment, the fears get repressed. You can think of this as stuffing them in an emotional backpack, to be processed later. The problem is that humans don't willingly subject themselves to scary feelings. So often those tears and fears stay locked up inside. But since the body knows those emotions need to be felt to go away, the feelings are always trying to bubble up to get healed. Children who are trying to keep fear at bay often become generally fearful and even rigid. If this describes your child, give her daily opportunities to giggle by playing games that dance just on the edge of fear -- bucking bronco rides, for instance. That takes the edge off anxiety. And when she feels safe enough to let those fears surface in tears, welcome her meltdown. On the other side of it, you'll have a less fearful, more flexible child.

How to overcome a child's shyness and insecurity

Shy children are similar to each other - they are indecisive, insecure, have difficulties in learning and communication. How often does it happen that, knowing the correct answer to a question, the child is perplexedly silent, and when he goes to the blackboard, he is covered with red spots and experiences panic fear. The situation escalates in the senior school age, when a teenager has to choose a profession and form a successful career. To prevent children's indecision from becoming a serious psychological problem, it is very important to know how to help a child overcome shyness.

Causes of shyness in children

Of paramount importance in overcoming child shyness is the determination of its root cause and provoking factors. Possible reasons include:

  • difficult family relationships;
  • fear of failure;
  • psychological trauma;
  • personal characteristics of character;
  • Borrowed behavior.

Only an experienced psychologist can determine the real cause of the problem. If your child experiences anxiety and difficulties in communication, difficulties in adapting to school and kindergarten, you can get professional psychological advice at the Rostum Academy educational center. Qualified specialists will help you build harmonious relationships in the family and tell you how to overcome the shyness and insecurity of the child .

How to save a child from shyness: advice for parents

The main task of parents who are faced with the problem of child shyness is to help the student become self-confident, raise his self-esteem and develop a positive self-perception. What can parents do in such a situation?

  1. Encourage communication and don't scold shyness. Praise the child in those situations when he was able to master himself in an unfamiliar environment or met a new friend. Encourage him to talk more. And never scold for fear.
  2. Consciously create new situations. Invite guests to your home more often, encourage your child to participate in contests and competitions, enroll him in the sports section.
  3. Never single out shyness as a negative trait. On the contrary, in communicating with other people, try to emphasize the delicacy, restraint of your own child.
  4. Give the children a pet (such as a dog). Daily walks with a four-legged friend will expand the horizons of your children and contribute to new acquaintances.

These recommendations will be especially effective for children of primary school age. However, in the case of adolescent shyness, a different approach is required. At the age of 13–15, each person undergoes a reassessment of internal values. And it often happens that many teenagers negatively evaluate their own "I", considering themselves uninteresting and insignificant to others. In this situation, it is very important for parents to support the child and show the value of his opinion.

Games and exercises to overcome childhood shyness

There are many games and exercises that can help your child get rid of shyness.

  • Exercise "If only I were bolder" - take turns with the child to make arguments in favor of courage and self-confidence by modeling various situations. Depending on the simulated situations, the exercise can be used both for younger students and for teenagers.
  • Game "Live illustration" (for children 5-12 years old) - the parent reads out a poem (story, fairy tale), inviting the child to illustrate the heard emotions with facial expressions and gestures. Agnia Barto's poems, filled with childhood experiences and subtle humor, are best suited for such a game.
  • Exercise “Who has more reasons” (5–12 years old) — participants in the game choose a statement (for example, “reading is useful because ...”) and take turns giving arguments for its correctness. It is best to choose life situations for such an exercise and play together.

When do you need professional help?

If a student cannot get rid of shyness on his own, and it becomes especially debilitating, it is necessary to seek professional help. Psychological consultations, relaxation programs, stress management and trainings on the topic "How to overcome a child's shyness" will be useful for shy children.

Special training "I'm sure" was also developed by the Rostum Academy. It is conducted using effective methods (testing, role-playing, group discussions) and is focused on overcoming various manifestations of insecurity, shyness and shyness. Also, the Rostum Academy offers courses to prepare children for school and has developed a number of useful training programs for young pupils.

Now you know how to overcome your child's shyness, and you can develop a strategy for developing communication skills and overcoming his self-doubt. As soon as your child gets rid of painful shyness, a whole world of bright colors and impressions will open up for him, he will study better, and in the future he will become a successful person! Believe in him and help you become more confident and brave.

how to help a child overcome shyness?



How to raise a child?

Shy baby: how to help a child overcome shyness?

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  • Expert advice
  • 3-7 years
  • social circle
  • help the child

At home, your baby seems to never stop talking and accompanies all his actions with chatter. But as soon as he finds himself in a new environment, for example, on a playground where there are a lot of unfamiliar children, he turns into the most shy child in the world, hides behind your legs and refuses to come out.

Many parents think that it is not so bad to have a shy child. A little shyness is unlikely to interfere with the child, but in a more pronounced version, it negatively affects his desire to explore and learn about the world, narrows his social circle, and can even have a bad effect on academic performance in elementary school.

Bernardo Carducci, physician and author of books on shyness, claims that some teenagers turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their shyness. There is another frightening consequence of "untreated" stiffness - such children become easy prey for hooligans among their peers.

How to distinguish ordinary caution from painful withdrawal at an early age?

How to distinguish healthy shyness from unhealthy?

Shyness is a state of mind caused by self-doubt or lack of social skills. But at the same time, timidity is a natural stage of development: it is a method of adapting to new situations.

In childhood, every person experiences two phases of fear of strangers: the first - at six months and the second - from two to four years. These processes are connected with the recognition and differentiation of oneself, people and the rest of the world.

But there are times when shyness becomes a problem. Such children, according to doctors, have other behavioral problems. And if you watch them, then anger and strong fear will become noticeable - frequent neighbors of shyness.

If you notice that your child is showing signs of unhealthy shyness, then I as a Parent recommends that you spend some time on this. Here are seven tips on how to do this.

8 tips for parents of shy children

1. Prepare the child to talk

Let's consider a situation in which you suddenly meet an old friend in the store who has not yet met your baby. And in response to questions, the child is silent and looks at the floor.

How to help a child in such a situation? Before introducing them, talk to a friend for a while. Let the baby see that you are comfortable with this person. This will calm him down and he will be ready to speak. But if the child refuses, do not insist, after the store ask why he was uncomfortable.

Practice the dialogues. Together with your child, make a list of expressions that the baby can use in conversation with peers, caregivers or teachers, your friends, family members. Then rehearse the dialogues: switch roles until the child feels confident and begins to communicate independently and freely with you.

2. Show your baby how to initiate communication

Another awkward situation can happen on the playground. You go there one day and you don't see a single familiar face. And your baby is shy about making friends with other guys.

What can you do in such a situation? Encourage your child to help other children with their play, such as offering them a toy. Also, a few compliments made by you towards the guys can help to loosen up.

3. Prepare your child for noisy holidays in advance

Before holidays or other noisy events in kindergarten or at home, tell your child what will happen at the holiday, who is invited, what will be done.

Phillip Zimbardo, a well-known psychologist who studies childhood shyness, in his recent book The Shy Child, recommends that parents of shy kids find younger friends for them. This helps children to liberate themselves, because communication with a younger child makes them feel leadership and responsibility, which is so necessary for timid children. After that, the child will be able to communicate more confidently with peers.

4. Watch yourself

A common cause of children's shyness lies in the behavior of parents: criticism, public shame, excessive control of every step of the child. At the same time, such behavior is not balanced by manifestations of parental love and praise.

Observe yourself and think about how you can change the way you treat your child to help him open up.

5. Do not give conflicting commands

Katerina Murashova, psychologist and author of books on parenting (, argues that conflicting instructions influence a child’s isolation and asociality parents.

When a baby simultaneously hears “leave me alone,” “where did you go,” “stay out of your way,” “come to me,” and the like, he does not understand what he needs to do to make mom and dad happy, and withdraws into himself.

6. Do not discuss the child's behavior with other people

Do not focus on the child's shyness. Do not discuss the child with relatives and friends in his presence. Show sympathy for his problems, do not ignore his fears.

7. Give your child "everyday" tasks

Be sure to help your child deal with shyness by going about his daily activities: have him answer the phone, order his own food at a restaurant, and pay at the store.

8. Teach your child to thank

Teach your child to thank and say “please” is an old and proven way of teaching communication.

Don't worry too much: most children go through a "shy" period by the age of seven, especially if they see how relaxed their parents are in the company. Make sure your children see you as a socially successful person, and try to live up to that example as much as possible.

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