Being Shy is Really Okay

Many people believe that shyness is an undesirable trait. Actually, shyness is a personality characteristic, not a flaw. And, reserved kids are often nice, well-behaved, and generous. Although they’re shy in some circumstances, they can also handle many situations well. One 5-year-old who wanted to try a hula hoop that another child was using told her mother, “At first I was shy and then I just asked her if I could use it.”

Shy children are often fine in small groups of two or three children or in one-on-one conversations with an adult. A shy child who’s involved in an interesting project won’t appear shy. It’s only when she’s focused on that her shyness becomes apparent.

While shyness should not be seen as a problem for a child, it can certainly be frustrating for parents. You may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when your child doesn’t respond as other children do.

You can help yourself and your child by avoiding uncomfortable situations and helping your child when necessary. For instance, many shy children don’t like to be put on the spot to say hello or otherwise talk on demand. If your child appears unlikely to respond to an adult’s questions, you can matter-of-factly respond for her and then quickly steer the discussion away from her. The alternative, trying to force your child to talk, will only make her feel worse and will probably be ineffective and make you feel uncomfortable. If you generally arrange situations so your child doesn’t feel focused on, everyone will feel better.

Sometimes your child will come home from school or play feeling frustrated because she couldn’t participate comfortably. She may be whiny or demanding. Accept that she needs understanding and an outlet for her feelings. If she feels comfortable enough and if she’s old enough to talk about her feelings and experiences, she may tell you about shyness and how it sometimes interferes with activities, “I was too shy to sing.” Certainly as she gets older, an accepting atmosphere at home will make it easier for your child to share her thoughts.

You may be convinced that your child will always be shy, but it’s hard to predict the paths your child will take. Some kids who are extremely shy during the preschool and elementary years gradually become more outgoing. In any case, the most important thing you can do for your child is to accept her as she is and help her find activities and situations that make her feel good. Your love, involvement, encouragement and acceptance will always benefit your child as she goes through the fun and challenging parts of growing up.

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