The Shy Child: Overcoming Shyness in Children
The shy child is a common issue for parents. It is thought that sometimes shyness in children is inherited while other times, it is due to environmental factors.
Shyness is not pathological; it is simply a feeling of uneasiness around others, particularly those who are unknown. However, extreme shyness can develop into social anxiety disorder in children.
Signs of a Shy Child
Many of us know what it's like to feel awkward around others and feel insecure. We may blush or feel speechless. These are signs of shyness. Other signs of shyness in children include:1
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Feeling self-conscious
- Feeling timid
- Being passive an unassertive
- Physical sensations like feeling shaky or breathless
Child shyness is most likely to be seen when the child is in a new situation or is with new people.
Why Are Some Kids Shy?
In addition to some kids being genetically predisposed to shyness, life experiences can also make a child shy. Child abuse, including emotional abuse and ridicule, may cause shyness in a child. Childhood shyness may also start after a child experiences a powerful physical anxiety reaction.2
An overly cautious parent may also cause child shyness as they reinforce the idea that the world is dangerous. This causes the child to think they should back away from new situations.
How to Help a Child in Overcoming Shyness
While some people can see the positive in being shy, for example a shy child may be a very good listener; many shy children wish to overcome their shyness. By encouraging slow, steady steps, overcoming shyness is possible.
Tips for helping a child overcome shyness:
- Encourage and model positive, outgoing, assertive behavior.
- Know that overcoming shyness takes time and reinforce that it's OK to feel awkward sometimes.
- Introduce shy children to new environments or people a little bit at a time to build up their confidence.
- Help a child with shyness prepare for new activities ahead of time. For example, what are some things the child would like to talk about?
- Find group activities your child likes and is good at in which to participate.
Last Updated: 29 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD