What is shyness?
Shyness is felt as a mix of emotions
, including fear and interest, tension and pleasantness. There may be an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Shyness can be a normal, adaptive response to social experience. By being somewhat shy, children
can withdraw temporarily and gain a sense of control. Generally, as children gain experience with unfamiliar people, shyness goes away. But if not, shyness can lead to certain problems such as:
- shy children obtain less practice of social skills and develop fewer friends
- such children may have poor self-image
- shy children may be less competent at play with peers
- shy people are often seen as less friendly and likeable
- children who continue to be excessively shy into adolescence and adulthood seem more lonely and have fewer close friends and relationships with members of the opposite sex, than their peers.
- at times, shyness may interfere with optimal social development and restrict a child's learning.
What are the causes for shyness?
The possible causes of shyness may be:
- a not so firm attachment bond between the parent and the child
- poor learning of social skills.
- parents, siblings, or others harshly and frequently teasing or criticizing a child.
- new social settings are the most frequent causes of shyness, especially if the shy person feels that he is the focus of attention.
- some aspects of shyness are learned; a child's cultural background and family environment may offer models of social behaviour.
- if the parents are too busy doing their own thing, hence not being able to meet the child’s basic emotional needs by not spending enough time with him.
- in some cases it could be that the child has an inferiority complex and feels inadequate in comparison to a sibling who might be smarter or better looking than him.
- some children are basically timid and seem to fear almost everything around them.
What can parents and teachers do to help children overcome shyness?
There are many strategies that can be used to help children overcome shyness. Some strategies may be more effective with some children than with others. The key is to recognise when a child’s shyness is becoming a problem and then act accordingly.
1. One way to help a child overcome shyness of certain social situations is to help him feel understood and accepted. Also, help the child identify and talk about his emotions. Let the child know that being shy is not a character flaw and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
2. Prevent labelling of the child as "shy". Children who are told that they are shy tend to start thinking of themselves as shy and stop making any effort to change.
3. Set goals for more outgoing behaviour and then keep a check of the child’s progress. For many shy children, a realistic, challenging goal is to say at least one word to one new person every day. Other goals might include speaking in front of a whole class, or asking a teacher a question.
4. Set an example for the child. Children learn a great deal through observing the behaviour of parents and others. Parents who want their children to act more outgoing should themselves act outgoing whenever possible in front of the children.
5. Expose the child to unfamiliar settings and people. The more practice they get interacting with unfamiliar people the faster the shyness will decrease. Prompt the child to interact with others.
6. Reward the child for outgoing behaviour. For example, whenever he acts outgoing, praise him. Praise even slight improvements in behaviour.
7. Help the child practice interacting with others. Some children do not know what to say in certain situations, such as when they meet a new child. Parents can help the shy children by encouraging them to practice the social skill.
8. Accept the child and be sensitive to his interests and feelings. This can make the child more confident, less inhibited and also help build his self-esteem.
9. Help the child develop social skills by providing him opportunities to experience social situations. For example, encourage the child to invite a friend or friends over or to go over to a friend’s house.
10. Do not push a child into a situation, which he sees as threatening. Help the child feel secure and provide interesting materials to help him participate in social situations.
11. Share your experiences of being shy with the child.