How to support your shy child
Children have individual and unique temperaments which are apparent from birth. Some children are fussy while others are calm. Some hate new situations while others don’t mind being the center of attention.
Each child is different
No matter how difficult you may think your child is, he/she likely possesses unique qualities which are tailored to his / her personality.
We may often think of the introvert child as lacking social skills; he/she doesn’t want to play with other children; prefers to observe rather than join in and is wary of new situations.
These circumstances may all be true; however, keep in mind that he/she has developed an ability to be independent and self-reliant. Your introvert child isn’t impulsive but takes time to observe a situation before deciding what to do.
These are all useful traits that could be lacking in other children. There isn’t a right or wrong temperament. Each child is unique and needs a different form of support from the adults around him/her.
Ways to support your child
Social skills are important in life. What’s most important is that your child feels comfortable and confident about him/herself.
If your child is an introvert, there are some ways to make difficult situations easier for him/her:
› Give your child enough notice about a new situation
If you’re going out or having a visitor over, let your child know in advance what will be happening, what he/she can expect and what you expect of him/her.
› Join small gatherings & playgroups
Large groups may overwhelm your child so try smaller groups with familiar friends to engage him/her.
› Reading & Modeling behaviour
These are great ways to show your child how to interact with other people. Your child may not know how to approach other children in a new game or an unfamiliar setting. Reading books and observing real-life experiences can help him/her figure out what to do.
› Find friends who have the same interests as your child
You don’t have to force your child to play with active children or limit him/her to other introverts. A good balance gives comfort in the type of activities he/she enjoys and also challenges him/her to develop new skills.
› Respect your child’s interests & desires
Don’t brush away your child’s quiet interests. If he/she wants to read a book or do a puzzle on his/her own instead of run around, that is fine. Acknowledge his/her feelings and give your child the time he/she needs to feel comfortable in a new situation.
When to seek professional help
While it’s normal that some children are introverts or socially cautious, it is important that your child reaches some developmental milestones at certain stages in his development.
The Zero-to-Three Journal recommends seeking professional help if:
› By four months, your baby isn’t smiling back.
› By nine months, your baby isn’t participating in back-and-forth sounds, smiles or facial expressions.
› By 12 months, your baby hasn’t started babbling or waving/pointing/reaching.
› By 18 months, your toddler doesn’t recognize (by pointing or looking at) familiar names of people of common body parts.
› Your child makes limited eye-contact or shows little pleasure in playful experiences.