Every child can be shy sometimes. Even when a child aged five or six years is bubbly most of the time, he can become overwhelmed with shyness when faced by strange children and unknown adults, as it so often happens when a child starts school. It’s perhaps surprising how even a confident child – who is normally friendly and full of conversation – becomes transformed into a quivering wreck when an unfamiliar child or adult talks to him.
Reasons for shyness
There is no single cause of shyness. Much depends on your child, his social experiences, and you and your partner. One explanation is that shyness is genetically inherited from parents, just as other characteristics are inherited, and there is some evidence to support this view.
For instance, the levels of shyness of identical twins (who have almost identical genetic structures) are closer than the levels of shyness of non-identical twins (whose genetic structures are no more similar than any two siblings).
However, this can also be explained in terms of parental behaviour. Mum and dad are more likely to treat their two young children the same if they look the same. For instance, they are more likely to expect them both to be outgoing or both to be shy, and therefore will behave towards them in a way that encourages such expectations.
Simply put, shy parents tend to have shy children, presumably because the model of social behaviour experienced at home – which the children will naturally copy – is one of shyness and so the children themselves are more likely to be shy.
Tips For Helping Your Shy Child
Here are some hints for ways you can help your shy six-year-old feel less self-conscious, especially when starting school: give him your support. Let him know that you care about him. Knowing that he has you there to take a special interest in him increases his self-esteem. Remind him he’s lovely and make him feel good about himself. Avoid excessive pressure. Your child could be afraid you will push him too quickly into social situations which terrify him.
So reassure him that you will not force him into anything, but add that you hope he will make an effort. If he avoids playing with other children, discourage it. Encourage him to join in with the others.
If you permit him to play on his own in the playground, he won’t have any opportunity to learn how to overcome his shyness. Teach him “opening strategies”.
Your child probably finds the initial seconds of a social encounter the most challenging part. Teach him how to make “small talk”, how to break the ice with another child. He could begin by making comments like “Your hair is nice.”
Chat to him about school. Make a specific point of asking him about his play activities and friendships every day. Be ready to give him lots of suggestions when he finds social situations difficult in school. Organise play activities. He’s probably less shy with others when he is in his own house, so arrange for one or two friends from his class to play with him at home, either after school or during weekends.
Get him to read stories about shy children. You’ll be able to get suitable books from your local library or bookshop and you may find that these stories indirectly help him feel more confident.