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Each child is unique, and his reactions, responses to situations, people and the world are determined by his individual personality, traits and temperament.

Sheetal Sharma, a writer of children’s books, senior academician and parent & child coach, gives a low down to SUBURB

Sheetal Sharma

One child may respond to your hello with a ready smile, while another one by hiding behind his parents. The first child will merrily recite a rhyme if asked to do so, while the other child will remain tongue-tied despite coaxing and cajoling by his parents. Now, these are two different reactions by two different children – each one reacting according to his individual temperament: one outgoing, ready to mix and mingle, and the other ready to flee at the sight of friendly gestures.

Parents place a lot of value on extroversion, but should the parents of a shy child feel embarrassed or awkward or apologetic at their child’s withdrawn nature?  Should they treat his shyness as a handicap or a fault?

“Importantly, as parents, we need to understand that if a child’s shyness is not negatively impacting his physical, emotional and cognitive growth, we should not force the child to act or react in a manner that goes against his innate temperament.  If parents, in their enthusiasm, do so, they cause more harm than good to the child,’’ Sheetal Sharma.

How can parents help their shy child?

1)  Boost self-confidence

Shyness revolves around one’s self-image. A child is afraid of other people’s opinion about him; is scared of being ridiculed, humiliated, rejected or criticised. He is full of self-doubts. So first and foremost, boost his self-confidence. He does any good work, how so ever small it may be, he/she should not go unnoticed. Appreciate wholeheartedly.

2)  Create opportunities to excel

Find out his talent, his interests and encourage him to spend time on these. Practice will bring results; improvement will show. Praise his endeavours to enhance his self-esteem.

3)  Do not label

Being judgemental, critical of his social behaviour and labelling him as shy will make him feel worse about himself. He will feel more self-conscious of his behaviour, and he will withdraw more into his shell.

Accept his introvert nature as his natural disposition. Do not try to cover it.

4)  Encourage communication

Tell the child about the occasions when you felt shy and how you managed to overcome it. Encourage him to talk about his fears; show understanding, and extend assurance and empathy.  

5) Roleplay to understand fears

Act out threatening situations. You are the victim and the child the saviour who suggests strategies to feel less shy. Reverse the situation. This will help you understand the child’s fears and situations where he needs your help.

6)  Organise play dates 

Consult your child with whom he will like to play and plan the games he will like to play. Make sure that the chosen friend is not overbearing or bully. Playing with a friend at home, which is the child’s comfort zone, will be moving one step towards his learning social skills.

7)   Take baby steps

Small initiatives can help by and by lifting the shy veil. Begin from small steps, like asking her to buy chocolate for herself and asking the shopkeeper about the price. Let him decide the dinner menu and talk to the cook about it. Give one small task to perform and encourage him to tell about it to granny or daddy.

Extreme and persistent withdrawn or timid nature could be a manifestation of some inner turmoil. In such a situation, it is advisable to seek the help of a counsellor.

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