Nurturing Social Skills in a Shy, Sensitive Child
Kids display an amazing mix of social skills and styles. Some kids like to have one or two close pals, while others feel at home in a big group of friends. Most kids eventually find their niche in the social scene. However, learning social skills can be challenging for children with extreme personality traits.
The child who is shy, anxious, and emotionally sensitive, for example, struggles to make friends and is easily hurt when someone rejects or ignores her. She worries more than most kids her age, but she may hold her anxiety inside. Her behavior may worry you, but there are steps you can take to help her become more confident and outgoing.
If your child is shy and anxious, try these tips to nurture her social confidence:
- Help her open up and express her feelings. Listen carefully, and try not to judge or “gloss over” her fears. As you discuss the specific things that make her anxious, you may be able to correct some of her misperceptions and misunderstandings.
- Empathize with her. If you were a shy, anxious, and lonely child, share those memories with her. Explain how you've handled teasing, shyness, and social anxiety throughout your life. Knowing that you’ve been able to cope with (and move beyond) many of your fears and feelings will comfort and inspire her.
- Gently nudge her out of her comfort zone and into the social scene. Start small, but help her explore opportunities to make new friends in emotionally safe situations. For example, if she enjoys art projects, does your local recreation department offer small art classes for kids her age?
Four Tips to Encourage Social Success in Any Child
No matter what social skills a child has (or lacks), there are a few basic tips parents can try to boost her social skills:
- Find teachable moments in everyday life. Relationship skills and habits learned at home set the stage for how your child relates to others. For example, if she learns to strike up a friendly conversation with a visiting aunt, she might also find the confidence to welcome the new kid at school.
- Practice what you preach. Model good social skills for your child. Do you smile and greet other customers and clerks (even the grumpy ones) at the grocery store? If someone doesn’t respond to your friendly overtures, can you shrug and laugh about it later? The example you set makes a bigger impression than you think.
- Get to know your child's friends. Pay attention to how they interact with, influence, and react to your child's behavior. Give your child feedback about what you observe.
- Praise the positive. Compliment your child when she reaches out to others. Give her specific feedback, such as, “I was proud of you for greeting your teacher when we saw her at the grocery store today. You even asked how her spring break is going!” And when she faces up to one of her fears, be sure to recognize her courage and effort.
If you patiently practice the tips above, your child shy, anxious, sensitive child may very well become more confident and less worried about her social relationships. Watch her wade into new territory, and smile!
For more information on this topic, see:
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing