Children are often labeled shy although they just need some time to warm up to new people and situations. Being cautious is a normal part of child development. However, if shyness turns into withdrawal, then it may indicate more serious behavioral problems. Parents can help their toddler build self-esteem and overcome shyness by paying attention to their own temperament and parenting style.
Don’t Label Your Child
Don’t refer to your child as shy in front of others. Calling a child shy may make him feel as if something is wrong with him. Don’t apologize to friends or family for your toddler being shy. Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. Some children are naturally outgoing while others take a more cautious approach. According to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, most children fall somewhere in the middle.
Recognize and Respect the Child’s Feelings
Shyness may be a stage that a toddler will grow out of, but it may also be her natural temperament. It is important to recognize and respect the child’s feelings to take things slow when approaching new people and circumstances. It is natural for toddlers to be inflexible about their routines and not always enthusiastic about change. Nurture your child’s self-esteem and reassure her that you understands how she feels. Learn to recognize the cues that she is feeling uncomfortable or anxious in social situations. Stay close and comfort her. If she is crying or throwing a tantrum because she wants to leave, it may be necessary to remove her from the social situation.
Provide Opportunity for Social Interaction
Being at home with parents is a safe haven for shy children. Provide social interaction for your child at home. Schedule play dates with one or two other children. Allow your child time to feel comfortable before adding more children or moving the play date to another location. It may also help to make the play dates brief for the first few weeks and then gradually lengthen the time as your child becomes more comfortable. Have family and friends over to give your child the opportunity to socialize in a safe setting.
Prepare Your Child Ahead of Time
Talk to your child and let him know in advance when people are coming over for a visit. A shy child may be uncomfortable even if family members that he hasn’t seen for awhile come for a visit. Use stories and photos to help familiarize him with family members or friends before the visit. Look through photos albums and share fun memories with him.
Be Patient and Be a Good Role Model
Don’t force your child into situations beyond her comfort zone. Some children are always going to be more cautious and reserved than others. Allow a shy child time to adjust to new people and situations. Don’t criticize the child for being shy. Accept her temperament without judgment. Parents are role models for children. Be confident and outgoing to set a good example for your child. If she is extremely shy or becomes withdrawn, consult your pediatrician.