Help Your Shy Child Make Friends Easier in Preschool
The Importance of Overcoming Shyness
Preschool parent activities involved with overcoming shyness are more important than you might imagine. MetroKids writer Suzanne Koup-Larsen reminds readers that movie greats, such as Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, had to overcome shyness in an effort to pursue their careers. Shy children can miss out on social activities and even basic conversation. They might actually fail in school simply because they are afraid to speak out, even if they know the right answers. There are a number of steps parents of preschoolers can take to help their children before they enter the higher grades.
Recognizing and Dealing With Shyness
The National Institute for Early Education Research reveals that shyness has actually a number of physiological components that parents may recognize: there is the flushing of the skin, the sudden nervousness, and even an increased heart rate. This classic fight or flight response cannot be ordered away by a well meaning parent, but instead requires the gentle implementation of one or more preschool parent activities designed to help a child with overcoming shyness.
Role playing is a valuable tool when helping your child to anticipate stressful and new situations. Parents should act out situations in which the preschooler learns how to introduce herself to a peer, how to ask her to play, how to ask her to share a toy, and also how to demonstrate that she wants to be friends. Anticipate positive and negative responses, and give your child the tools needed to deal with either outcome.
Develop Coping Strategies
Coping strategies help the child deal with the anxiety that is the root cause of shyness. Talk through the situation with your preschooler and allow her to air her feelings, no matter how irrational they may sound. For example, if your child is afraid of participating in the class because she is afraid of making a mistake, practice how to respond when a teacher corrects her. Offer specific words to use and even facial expressions to employ, when such a correction occurs. While this coping strategy might not make all of the anxiety go away it offers specific instructions the child can follow, which put her into control of the situation and therefore the anxiety.
Visual Clue Design
If shyness is so severe that the preschooler suffers from separation anxiety and is inconsolable even after a prolonged period of time, employ visual clues that help her overcome her shyness. Following along the lines of using “monster powder” – which is little more than pepper – to ward off the monsters that supposedly live under the bed, give her a specific item to touch and look at when the feelings of anxiety get too strong. This could be a picture of the family, a special small stuffed toy, or even a little necklace she can wear under her shirt. This clue is a constant reminder that she is not powerless, but has you at her side even when you are not there in person.
When All Else Fails: Working With the Child’s Teacher
While these parent activities for shy children usually work, there are the occasional tough cases that simply won’t be resolved quite so readily. In such situations it is a good idea to work with the child’s preschool teacher to brainstorm for ideas how to help. For example, the teacher might be able to pair up children, rather than doing a whole group activity. Even though this seems small it might make a huge difference to a child.
- MetroKids. "Overcoming Shyness" (accessed April 15, 2011)
- National Institute for Early Education Research. "Children Not Necessarily Destined to Life of Shyness" (accessed April 15, 2011)