Supporting the 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 and no matter how difficult you may think your child is sometimes he is special and has qualities that work best for his personality.
We may often think about the introvert child as lacking in social skills; he doesn’t want to play with other children, he prefers to observe rather than join in and he’s wary of new situations. These situations may all be true, however, keep in mind that your introvert child has developed an ability to be independent and self-reliant. He 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.
In our life social skills are important. More importantly is that your child feels comfortable and confident about himself. If your child is an introvert there are some ways you can support him to make difficult situations easier for him.
- 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 can expect and what you expect of him.
- Join small gatherings and playgroups. Large groups may overwhelm your child so try smaller groups with familiar friends to engage your child.
- Reading and modeling 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. Books and observing real life experiences can help your child in figuring out what to do.
- Find friends who have the same interests. You don’t have to force your child to play with active children or limit him to introverts like himself. A good balance gives him comfort in the type of activities he enjoys and also challenges him to develop new skills.
- Respect your child’s interests and desires. Don’t brush away your child’s quiet interests. If he wants to read a book or do a puzzle on his own instead of run around that is OK. Acknowledge his feelings and give your child the time he needs to feel comfortable in a new situation.
When to Seek Help
While it’s normal that some children are introverts or slow-to-warm-up-to, 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 4 months your baby isn’t smiling back
- By 9 months your baby isn’t participating in back and forth sounds, smiles or facial expressions
- By 12 months hasn’t started babbling or waving/pointing/reaching
- By 18 months doesn’t recognize (by pointing or looking at) familiar names of people of common body parts.
- Has limited eye-contact or shows little pleasure in playful experiences.
Zero to Three Journal
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