Fears and Shyness
- Kids of all ages have fears. Fears are a normal part of growing up. Young children may become afraid of flushing toilets or bathtub drains. Older teenagers may become fearful about terrorism and leaving home.
- Take every one of your child’s fears seriously—even if you think it’s absolutely ridiculous. Young children often have fears they develop in their imagination. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean your child isn’t afraid.
- Create practical, age-appropriate ways to help your child cope with her fears. Some preschoolers feel empowered if they draw a picture of the monster in the closet and then rip it up. Older teenagers feel more control if they get to know the college they’re going to attend and spend some time there before they make the big move.
- Talk about fears. Even adults have fears. Don’t talk about what you’re afraid of (you don’t want to add to your child’s list). Instead, focus on how you cope with and work through your fears. Sometimes we are afraid because we should be. You don’t want your child to dismiss all fears, because feeling fear is one way to keep ourselves safe.
- Children go through stages when they feel shy. This is normal. Don’t push your child to interact with people he’s shy toward. Instead, stick close to him and help him feel more at ease. Sometimes a shy child will begin to open up a bit after he has sat in your lap, stayed right next to you, or hidden behind you for a while.
- Encourage others to be gentle with your child. There’s nothing that shuts down a shy child faster than a gregarious adult who overwhelms her.
- Model how to interact with people. Smile at them. Look them in the eye. Talk about how you interact with people—and why—with your shy child. Over time, your child will learn how to interact through your modeling and messages.
- Arrange small, short-term social interactions for your shy child. It’s easy (and tempting) to completely protect a shy child, but he needs experiences in learning how to interact with others. Expect a lot of bumps at first, but over time, your child will warm toward others.