Speech Development Blog

How to Help Your Shy Child

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If your preschooler is attached to your hip at your every move, try these tips on how you can help your shy child gain some independence and confidence.

New Situations

Most days it seems like your child is a little chatterbox, and you can hardly hear yourself think with all of the questions and comments. But take that same little chatterbox to an unfamiliar place, like a playground or at school, and he or she turns bashful and won’t leave your sight. Chances are, your child’s shy behavior is just a part of their personality. Most children are born with a tendency to be cautious in new situations. Preschool can be tough for these kids, but there are some ways that you can boost your child’s confidence in these types of situations.

Help with Strangers

Timidness Trigger: You bump into someone at the grocery store that you haven’t seen in years, and when asked a question, your child stares at them blankly or will not even look at them.

Why so shy? After enforcing the rule, never talk to strangers, how can you blame them for clamming up? The size of some adults is enough to make some kids uneasy, and when we want them to smile, talk, and laugh, their natural instinct is to pull away.

How you can help: Chat with your friend for a minute or two before making introductions. Your child will feel reassured and will be more likely to talk if they see that you are comfortable with this person. Ask them to say hello, and if they will not, don’t push it. Later, ask them what made them feel so uncomfortable, and practice handshakes, smiles, and introductions at home with stuffed animals.

On the Playground

Timidness trigger: You and your child go to a playground, and they don't know anyone. You suggest that they go up to some of the kids, and ask to play, but they won’t even try.

Why so shy? Approaching a group is scary even for adults. Imagine if someone asked you to approach a large group of people that you didn’t know.

How you can help: Start small. Suggest that they maybe approach a smaller group of children or a child that is playing by him or herself. You can also suggest an introduction like, “It seems like those kids in the sandbox could use another bucket. Would you like to go join them with yours?” If your child still hesitates, help them by going over and making the introduction. 

Weddings and Other Events

Timidness trigger: A wedding or birthday party sends your child into ultra shy mode, and you have to pry them from your lap, or from between your legs, just to go to the bathroom.

Why so shy? Most children become shy at these large unfamiliar settings because they don’t know how to act or what to expect. That, along with relatives they barely remember greeting them with big hugs and kisses, will surely send your child into a shy mode.

How you can help: Talk about the event beforehand in simple terms that they can understand. You can also try showing them pictures of family members they might see, and talk about what will happen when you get there.

Simple Confidence Builders

Help your child become more independent and socially savvy by having them practice these skills.

  • Answering the phone.
  • Ordering their meal in a restaurant.
  • Handing money to the cashier at a store.
  • Calling a friend to make a play date.
  • Saying "please" and "thank you" to unfamiliar (but safe) adults.

Topics: speech development, speech development activities, social development, speech therapy ideas, communication, childrens speech development, speech milestones, speech therapy for toddlers, speech, shy