The summer days are fading away and the autumn breeze is taking over. For the parents who have children in schools, this change brings over early wake ups, strict routines and definitely homeworks. But some parents are also concerned with their children’s social shyness and its effect on their ability to make friends and mingle with other kids. We interviewed Marwa Saadawi, a school counselor and the child therapist at The Wellness Hub, to share with us the strategies that parents can use to teach their kids to interact more comfortably is social situations.
What should a parent do to help a child understand and overcome shyness?
Being shy can stem from ones’ temperament or personality. So be sure to be sensitive and accepting of each child’s nature. There is nothing wrong with being shy however; when it begins to affect social scenarios, and day to day life than you may want to consider focusing on the following tips:
1. Empathize with your child’s feelings and don’t label your child as the shy one.
Emotions can be a difficult concept for children to grasp. As parents you need to take time to acknowledge the feelings your child is going through. This will allow him/her to feel good about themselves, regardless of the negative feeling.
Instead of constantly labeling your child as the “shy” one, turn it into something more positive by using past experiences that your child has successfully faced. For example, if your child is nervous about going to the birthday party on Saturday, you can simply remind him/her about a previous party they were nervous about and how in the end they had a fun time. It is about guiding your child’s mind into a positive mindset, to allow them to face their fears.
2. Increase confidence
Enhancing your child’s self-esteem will automatically increase their confidence. Sometimes parents are fixated on specific afterschool activities for their child. It is best to try out different things and if your child excels and enjoys in a certain hobby; whether it is painting, sports, theatre, or academics, then focus on these attributes.
Modeling confidence is also important, so showing a relaxed attitude during all social interactions is important for your child to see. Encourage your child to ask for something in the supermarket, or at the sporting club, while you are nearby them. These “stranger situations” will give your child more guided practice and confidence to approach unfamiliar social environments. Notice your own behavior, are you as a parent, ordering on behalf of your child at the restaurant? Are you constantly getting things for them? These are all minor “stranger social” scenarios in which you can slowly involve your child in, to allow them to build their social skills.
Most children that are shy, are going to make up for it in other ways. Your child may be a great listener, empathetic, thoughtful, or observant. Use these attributes to their advantage. Bring it to their attention and allow them to use that when interacting socially.
3. Evaluate your child’s social skills
Every child grows emotionally at different levels, and some may need more support and comfort than others. If you find that your child is on the shyer side, you can role play scenarios at home to practice social skills in a fun light hearted way. So if you feel that your child is nervous before the first day of school, grab two teddy bears and practice different ways that one can introduce themselves. For the older child you can practice on yourselves and practice going up to your child and introducing them, and vice versa.
Role play is a great tactic in enhancing and practicing social skills. Especially when it comes to your child sticking up for themselves. You want your child to be fearless enough to say “you had your turn, now it’s my turn”.
4. Encourage playdates
As silly as this tip may sound, playdates are a vital part of increasing social skills. You should oversee the playdates, in order to understand how your child interacts with his/her peers. This will give you more insight on things to work on at home.
Remember that despite everything, it is ok to be shy, and offer love and acceptance.