Does your toddler or preschooler hide behind your legs when meeting new people? Do they babble and talk all day until put into an unfamiliar setting and have them turn bashful? There’s nothing wrong with being a little reserved, even ultra-confident kids can turn timid when they’re faced with the unexpected, but if feeling shy keeps them from enjoying new experiences it can be a problem. Here are some simple ways to boost your child’s confidence, even in the most trying situations.
Other parents might be sitting on the bench, but if your child needs you to feel safe, it’s worth it to play with them and help facilitate a beginning interaction with the other children. Once your little one is playing, you can start slowly backing out and letting them play together. Stay close and make sure your child can still see you, sometimes that’s all they need to know they are safe and secure in a new situation.
If you run into an old friend who hasn’t met your child, and they are hiding behind your legs, let them stay safe and hide for a few minutes and talk to your friend. This shows your child that you are comfortable with that person. Ask your little one to say hello, but if they won’t, don’t push it. Talk to them later about why they felt uncomfortable and help practice handshakes, introductions, and conversations with stuffed animals or other adults they are comfortable with.
Kids often find large, noisy gatherings like weddings and parties stressful because they don’t know what to expect or how to act. Talk about the event beforehand in simple terms. Tell them what will happen first, second, and third – giving them a simple run down will help alleviate fears about the unknown. Let your child stay close during the event, but draw some boundaries. Say, you can stay with us for a while, but you will be eating at the children’s table. Help them start talking to the other kids by pointing out common ages or interests.
Not every child needs to be a social butterfly, but some simple confidence boosters might help. Have your child practice answering the phone, ordering their own meal, and practicing “please and thank you” conversations with adults and children they feel comfortable with. Some parents feel that it’s important to accept a shy child the way they are, while others focus on teaching a child to interact more comfortably. Ultimately, it’s best to combine support with encouragement.
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