Shy kids may need more time to warm up.

Activities to Help Kids Be Less Shy

by Karen Kleinschmidt

Shy kids may have few friends and have a difficult time getting involved in peer-related activities. You can assist your child by helping her to manage her emotions, which may boost her confidence when getting involved in a new activity and help her to come out of her shell. While accepting and empathizing with her fear of being rejected, challenge her negative thoughts and help her to set a reasonable goal to begin one activity of her choice and stick with it for a specified amount of time, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

1. Social Interactions

Very shy children need assistance to open up before they feel comfortable enough to join an activity. Wherever you see an opportunity, prompt your shy child to speak or interact with other children, according to clinical psychologist and University of New England senior lecturer John Malouff, Ph.D., J.D., in "Helping Young Children Overcome Shyness." Tell children what to say. For example, "Say hello to John" or "Tell Mary about your new car." If your child is reluctant to speak at all, prompt him to say hello or goodbye.

2. Conversation Starters

You may need to actually begin a conversation with another child to model for your shy child how to speak to others and to give her the necessary courage she may need to feel comfortable enough to socialize. For example, you may say to a child at your child's playgroup, "I like your purple sun dress," then turn to your child and say, "Purple is your favorite color, isn't it? How about you tell Mary about your new purple swimming pool with the slide." Interject when necessary to help your child keep the conversation going. This gives your child a direct opportunity to speak and interact. Malouff advises against pushing too hard.

3. Extracurricular Activities

For the school-age child who has difficulty speaking up in school, encourage him to join after-school or recreational activities. Being on a sports team or sharing his music, writing or artistic talent with like-minded peers can help your child to open up in a safe environment. This can help him to build self-confidence which may increase school success. Encourage him to talk about his chosen activity on a regular basis, combat any negative thoughts that may be increasing feelings of discomfort and role-play difficult situations to help your child to deal with his feelings in an assertive manner, suggests the APA.

4. Mentor

A mentor who is outgoing and shares similar interests can help your child to alleviate some of her shyness and increase her confidence in social situations. Spending time with a mentor, an older teen or adult in your area, can help your child to increase her ability to open up and bond with both adults and peers. A shy child can begin to explore the emotions surrounding her shyness with her mentor, which will help to alleviate the intensity of them.

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