Kids stepping into the classroom for the very first time may suffer from anticipatory anxiety surrounding a brand new environment. This is particularly true for children who are genetically predisposed to shyness. Although a tendency for shyness often comes with the “sweet and quiet” label, it doesn’t necessarily have to hold kids back from meeting new people and engaging fully in experiences. Just ask Justin Timberlake. Timberlake was so shy growing up that even his mom called him out for always looking at his feet.
Unfortunately shyness is a personality trait that can’t necessarily be prevented since it may have genetic roots, but there are ways to help children overcome shyness.
Skip labels: Parents who notice a child’s tendency for shyness will benefit him by staying away from pointing it out in the presence of strangers. When a child runs away from family or friends, the knee jerk reflex is to explain the shyness away. By doing this parents unconsciously give kids permission to identify with that label, which can make it harder to coax kids out of their shells.
Shyness is not a measure of self esteem: Kids who are shy or quiet can have a very strong sense of self. They may simply be cautious in letting in individuals who can disrupt their solid sense of inner peace. Kids who are quiet, but happy, have friends and show interest in activities should not be lumped in the same category with children who show complete social withdrawal compounded with failure at school or other signs of trouble.
Find a favorite activity: Pay attention to hobbies and activities that appeal to the shy apple of your eye. Sometimes all it takes is a sense of passion to crack that outer exterior. Kids who get lost in an activity eventually learn to neglect the shyness. Encourage kids to participate in groups or sign up for lessons with like-minded peers. Finding something kids are naturally good at will give them a chance to learn to shine, …and like it.
Don’t rush the shedding. Kids who begin to say hello to strangers and engage in unfamiliar experiences may do so cautiously at first, setting out feelers to test the environment. Let them set the pace.
Encourage independence. Let them order that smoothie themselves, or pay for the toy at the counter. Even brief interactions with strangers (screened by parents, of course) will teach kids to open up in unfamiliar situations.