How can you help your child if they're shy?
MANY children are uncomfortable when they meet people for the first time or even with people they know when they first say hello.
Often this is referred to as shyness and parents worry about it impacting on their child's social development.
Sometimes children will just take a while to feel comfortable in a social setting and will come good, but for some children it can be a bit more difficult to get used to their environment.
Will it go away?
IN MANY cases children are naturally shy and, just like it is in adults, it's simply part of their personality.
While parents rightly get concerned, it's important they don't try to simply remove the problem as they can't force their child to change their personality so their shyness just goes away.
Parents should focus on how they can support their child to become more confident and comfortable in social settings.
Rather than trying to change their personality, parents should focus on encouraging brave behaviour by their child and on teaching them how to act in social settings.
Don't label it shyness!
MOST of the time a child who appears to be shy can get used to their environment and interact in a perfectly natural way with other children.
Calling your child shy can create a social stigma - especially if it leads to other parents and their children labelling them.
Giving your child a reputation as shy can be upsetting to them and worsen social issues they face.
Language is really important, so instead of labelling your child, try to speak in a positive manner.
For example, you could say "Grace takes a little while to get used to be people, but loves to play” or "just give Billy a little time and he will join in”.
What else can you do to support your child?
YOU want your child to be comfortable when they're with other children and it can be painful to see awkwardness.
The good news is there are plenty of positive actions you can take to support your child and teach them how to overcome their social awkwardness.
For toddlers and young children, stay near them as they get used to a situation and encourage them to explore on their own.
It's a good idea to avoid over-comforting your child and to encourage them when they take brave steps such as saying hello, making eye contact or leaving your side to go play with others.
Remember to also provide your own examples of good social behaviour so they can copy it.
For school age children, ensure your child engages in extra-curricular activities and hobbies that involve interacting with other people, encourage them to visit friends and avoid negatively comparing them to other children.
It is also a good idea to coach older children about how to interact and help them practice class situations they may find uncomfortable (such as talks up the front and show and tell.)
Remember, if you need support or advice, you can always make contact with our Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service child health team at Margaret Rose Centre, 312 Bourbong St, Bundaberg; The Village 34 Torquay Rd, Hervey Bay or the Bauer-Wiles Building 167 Neptune Street, Maryborough. Alternatively, call your local WBHHS child health team on:
Bundaberg - 4150 2700
Fraser Coast - 4122 8733
Childers - 4192 1133
Gin Gin - 4157 2222
Gayndah - 4161 3571
Mundubbera - 4161 3571
Monto - 4166 9300
Biggenden - 4127 6400
Eidsvold - 4165 7100
Even if you just want to have a chat and a bit of reassurance, the WBHHS child health team is here to help!