So, you found great Chuck-E-Cheese coupons or some kind of kid-friendly establishment and decided to take your child out for the day. There’s only one problem – they’re shy and no matter what you do, they can’t or won’t play with other children. This is more common than you might imagine, and while it’s natural to worry if your child doesn’t seem to be making friends, shyness doesn’t need to be a huge obstacle for your child. There are some things you can do to help them make friends in any situation.
Discuss the Merits of Friendship with Them
Some children are more naturally introverted than others, and this is not a problem. However, it’s important that shyness and introversion don’t lead to isolation. Friendships help to build important social skills – talk to your children about how having friends can be fun and ask them what kind of friends they would like to have.
Try to make the process of socializing fun rather than daunting and make sure your child feels in control of their social life. Overcoming shyness will be easier if your child wants to make new friends!
Don’t Label Them
Labels are a part of life, but for children who have not fully developed yet they can be particularly limiting. Rather than saying “he/she is shy” when your child has trouble jumping into a social situation, try asking them if they feel nervous or if they want to do something in particular – give them agency! Shyness can often be a reaction to anxiety and perceived threats.
Older children in particular will often have an idea of what they want in a specific situation so allow them to vocalize it. You can then ask if they would like to include their friends, or children around them, in that activity.
Seek Confidence Boosting Opportunities
Shyness is often linked to a lack of confidence (which is why it is common in children who have anxiety or who have experienced bullying). One of the easiest ways to help a child who is very shy to come out of their shell is to help them to build confidence. This can mean finding opportunities for them to meet new children in quieter settings.
As your children get older, extracurricular activities such as sports, music, dance, and other such clubs can help them to gain confidence and connect with children their own age.
Take a Step Back
Sometimes children can become shy because they are worried about failing to meet the expectations of their family, peers, and other authority figures like teachers. While it is only natural to want your child to succeed and have many friends, sometimes the best thing you can do to help them achieve that is to take a step back.
Once your child reaches middle-school age, it can be better to allow them space to find out who they are and what they want. Just tell them that you’re here for them if they need you and let them spread their wings!