Encouraging Your Shy Child

Help your shy child get involved in social activities and open lines of communication with the teacher.
My eight-year-old son is very timid and afraid to tell his teacher if something is wrong or if he doesn't understand something. He is also reluctant to get involved in activities with his classmates. What can I do for him?
Shy children are sometimes at a unique disadvantage. Interaction that is easy and natural for an extroverted child can be quite stressful for a shy one. But you can be an advocate for your child and help him build self-confidence in the classroom and other social situations.

First of all, make an appointment with your son's teacher. Good communication between home and school will be key to his progress. Describe your son to the teacher as you see him at home, and let her know how your son behaves when he becomes frustrated and doesn't understand something. Let the teacher know about any approaches that might be effective in getting your son to ask for help. The teacher might in turn be able to give you insight into your son from a different perspective, and she may have her own ideas about how to help him. The important thing is to open the lines of communication. You and the teacher are a team. The more information you give the teacher, the better equipped she will be to teach your child and to encourage him to be more assertive.

Secondly, encourage your child to become involved in a leisure-time activity of his choosing. Find out what your son's real interests are, and sign him up for lessons, a team, or a club. It isn't necessary for your son to do what all of the other kids are doing just because it's popular. But it is particularly important for shy children to pursue extra-curricular interests because it gives them confidence in their own abilities and practice in social situations. Your son might be reluctant to participate in an activity because he is not sure what to do or feels inadequate. By participating in an activity he likes, he will gradually learn that he has talents and can feel more comfortable with others.

After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.

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