As adults we often forget our perception of the world when we were children. The sheer scope of sensory stimulation a toddler experiences can be simply overwhelming at times. In fact, it can be frightening to the extent that a child may withdraw from social interaction. Such was the case with my precocious yet painfully shy in public 2 year old daughter. Yet inexplicably at a recent children’s party, my demure little angel took a hammer to her self-imposed wall of shyness and pulverized it to dust.
I can’t point to one particular factor that caused this sudden transformation yet there were numerous possibilities. Her confidence was emboldened due to her older brother being in attendance at the party. The event was held at a kids play gym which included toddler enticing slides, cushioned floor mats and more. The number of child attendees was relatively small with an age range from 2 to 7. Both my wife and I were in close visual proximity. And finally her love of music may have tempered her fears. She likes to move to the groove with reckless abandon.
Suffice it to say, my wife and I were elated by our daughter’s breakthrough. Shyness can be disabling in a variety of ways including a tendency to withdraw from social settings, the inability to adjust to change and ultimately limit the child’s ability to function as a social adult in the future. It’s up to parents to help their children develop the essential skills needed for social interaction. The required level of parental engagement depends on the child’s movement toward shyness. In many ways, it is the child who will need to independently find ways to break free. Certainly, there’s no one size fits all solution. The best course of action may be a combination of support and encouragement.
Based on the collective experience of my wife and I as well as many other parents who have contended with breaking the chains of shyness in young children, I’ve compiled a short list of ideas on how parents can actively approach the subject.
- Allow time for the child to warm up to a new situation. Inform other parents or friends prior to social interaction to ease the child’s transition.
- Find the right balance. If the child exhibits obvious signs of not adapting to a new social situation (i.e. Being clingy to a parent for hours instead of socializing with children) it may be time to call it day and try again at a future opportunity.
- Jump into the mix. Parents need to sometimes get physically involved whether it’s at the playground or on the dance floor or in a play school setting. Being a model for your child to emulate helps ease a child’s fears. Including other children to play with your child can break the ice.
- Help children develop a variety of social skills by monitoring their progress in areas such as sharing, anger management, coping with loss, apologizing, defending themselves, making use of humor, forgiveness, comforting someone, asking for help, sticking up for someone else, demonstrating creative thinking, avoiding hazardous situations, giving in to a dare, etc.
How have you helped your children break the chains of shyness? How did you overcome your own shyness as a child? Please leave a comment below.