Most preteens feel awkward and uncomfortable in some social situations. Their bodies are growing rapidly and may feel cumbersome and unwieldy. Additionally, pre-adolescents are often acutely aware of social dynamics in a way younger children are not. While shyness in new situations or during public performances is normal, extreme shyness can be very debilitating for your child. She may have difficulty making friends, experience low self-esteem and avoid important social functions.
Make an analogy to give your preteen some perspective. Developing social ease is a lot like building muscle and endurance according to the Stanford Shyness Institute. Just as an athlete has to practice and train to excel at his sport, a shy person has to work hard to develop social confidence. Assure your preteen that while her shyness won't disappear overnight, with time and effort, she'll feel less nervous.
Encourage your preteen to step out of her comfort zone. Suggest that she take 10 opportunities each day to reach out to others. She doesn't have to stand up and give a speech. Simply smiling at a classmate, opening a door for someone or making small talk with a new student are all ways she can deal with her feelings of shyness.
Role play social scenarios. Often, shy preteens are overwhelmed by the prospect of initiating a conversation. Practice simple greetings and small talk. Suggest topics for conversation such as classes, sports, TV shows and hobbies.
Provide your preteen with opportunities to interact with others in a safe environment. Encourage her to invite a few friends to the house or offer to drive them to a movie. Practicing social skills with a small group of peers will help your preteen develop confidence.
Help your preteen to accept feelings of shyness. When she starts to feel uncomfortable and anxious, suggest that your child shift her focus to those around her. If she doesn't know what to say, encourage her to ask questions. By expressing interest, your preteen can help her peers feel confident which will in turn boost her own confidence.
Give your child support and encouragement. Don't view her shyness as a flaw that needs to be fixed. Doing so will make your preteen feel even more insecure, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. Instead, empathize with her feelings and express confidence in her abilities.