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One of the things many children have trouble with is adjusting to a new environment. For some, this is easy. But for the shy child, making new friends is hard and a new school year begins this process of having to readjust into a new environment that much more difficult.
Here are some tips that parents can do to help the shy child make friends more easily and feel more comfortable at school:
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Tips for Parents
1) Talk to your Child’s Teacher: Your child's teacher will often notice things you don’t about your child’s behavior. If you know what to do to help, it is easier to advise your child on how to open up and make friends.
2) Spend Some Time Volunteering at the School: By being present, sometimes you can notice yourself how your child is getting along with other students. You can also help them feel more comfortable in the environment and talking to kids they don’t know just by being present.
3) Model Behaviors: Shy kids, as well as others often emulate the behavior they see their parents engage in. If they see you are friendly and open to others, they often will be too. By modeling the behavior you want to instill in your child, you will encourage them to be less conscientious and more sociable.
4) Watch Movies or Read Books About Making Friends: Literature can sometimes teach what it is hard to tell them. Books like “Making Friends," by Fred Rogers and others can illustrate what to do to bring more friends into your life.
5) Encourage Your Child to be an Active Learner: Tell your child that you want them to ask questions and participate in class. Not only will this help them with shyness, but it will also help them do better in school. By encouraging active learning, they will appear more confident to their peers and teachers as well.
6) Talk to your Child About Worries and Fears: Sometimes shyness comes from a place within that is based on fears and insecurities. If you can focus on what might be bothering your child, they may be able to move past this and have the confidence to be more outgoing.
7) Accept Them as They Are: Despite your best intentions, some children are just naturally more outgoing than others. Accept your child’s personality as they are. They may become more extroverted later in life, or maybe not. The important thing is to try to help when you can, then back off and let your child learn some things for themselves. Talk to your child’s teacher often if it is a problem and see what tips they can offer. They may also observe your child and help them be more interactive with others.
There is no easy answer to childhood shyness. Most of us experienced it to some degree. The key is to accept your child as they are, while encouraging a gradual increase in confidence over time in both academic and social contexts. Talk to your child’s teacher and counselor if the problem is severe, they are bullied by others, or if there is a need to intervene. But, in general, there is no need to worry. Children tend to grow out of their shyness as they get older, and gain more confidence with people.
Here are some resources for further reading:
Shyness in the Classroom: http://www.shakeyourshyness.com/teachingshychildren.htm
How to Help the Shy Child & Teenager: http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-psychology/anxiety_disorders_in_children/shy_child/
Books on Friendship and Making Friends: http://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/Children's%20books%20on%20friendship.pdf
Helping the Shy Student Adjust to School
Parents have a large role to play in the education of their children. Read the tips in this series to make this the best school year you've had so far!