Mom takes Toddler Zap to a birthday party where there are lots of children she doesn't know. Toddler Zap is shy and wants to stay with her mother. Mom encourages Toddler Zap to go off and play, but she keeps coming back. Mom picks her up and settles her down. Then she takes Toddler Zap by the hand and introduces her to some children. Toddler Zap soon joins in the play and waves to Mom, happy to know she is there watching.
From birth, children have different temperaments. Some take to strangers easily. Some are shy and find it hard to meet new people. Some children can go in and out of phases of being shy, when perhaps they don't want to enter new groups. Other children may feel shy only in some situations. You have to understand and accept your child's temperament and feelings. You can help her deal with her shyness by giving her time to get comfortable with new surroundings and people, and being nearby for support.
Don't draw attention to your child if he is feeling shy, or tell anyone else, in front of him, that he is "shy." Sometimes children live up to labels like that - they start to believe them because you say so.
Don't worry that a shy child will "miss out" or "fall behind" other children. First of all, temperament isn't related to intelligence. Secondly, there can be a positive side to being shy, such as growing up to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.
Your child needs to be able to rely on you and know that you are there when needed. A secure child will more eagerly explore the world around him. If you notice that your child is having some difficulty, stop what you're doing and go to him to help. If your child is finding it hard to be part of the group, one idea is to give him a toy related to the group's play, to help him join in.
It takes time for all children to learn to make friends and get along with others . These social skills will improve as the child learns to talk better and control his movements more. Playing with your child and getting two-way communication going in a happy, playful way help prepare your child to be with others. You can even play-act ways of dealing with new situations that the child will be facing.
By age three, if not before, your child should have regular opportunities to play with groups of other children. Having a manageable group size, supportive adults on hand and some fun activities are all helpful in learning how to play together.
Learning social skills takes time, so you shouldn't push children too soon, or criticize them. And making friends works best if you let the child choose what to play and whom to play with.
Your child will need help with any unhappy times, such as problems with sharing toys. Try to get her to talk about her feelings, to see what you can work out together. If there's been a problem with another child, help her see his point of view, and talk about possible solutions. Your child will be watching you to learn social skills, too.
Food for Thought:
- What kinds of things can you do to help prepare your child for, and introduce her to, new situations and people?
- How do children develop a secure attachment to you? What would make this difficult?