Top 10 Tips to get your Shy Child to Speak

Many children thrive in new environments or situations. They separate quickly from their parents, make friends easily and are eager to participate in the classroom. Not all children are like this, however. Some children are resistant to entering a room full of children and prefer to play alone. They may also be more reserved in circle time or in the classroom. They may have a hard time making new friends and having a conversation. Below are some ways you can encourage your shy child to come out of his/her shell.

 10 Tips To Encourage Your Shy Child To Speak:

1. Encourage play groups with friends – Many children will have an easier time playing or talking when there are less people around. Ask your child’s teacher who your child tends to sit next to or who shares some of the same interests and invite them over for a play date. Start by having the play date at your house. Once your shy girlchild is comfortable playing with his new friend in your house, change the setting and go to the park. When he/she seems ready to go over to the friend’s house, let your child bring some of his/her favorite toys to make the transition easier.

2. Help your child make friends – Making new friends isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. Start by introducing your child to someone his/her own age. Try to find out what the other child likes to do and see if they share any common interests. When you make the introduction, it’s helpful to say, “Scott is your age too! And guess what? He loves dinosaurs!” This will help your child ease into the process of making friends. Once your child becomes more comfortable or at ease, you can then invite the other friend over for a play date.

3. Role play – Use some of your child’s favorite toys to role play what may happen in real life. Let’s say your child has a hard time entering his/her classroom in the morning and saying hi to his/her peers. Use dolls or stuffed animals and act out this situation. Ask your child, “What could bear say to his friends?” If your child has a hard time playing with the other kids during free time, you could act this out as well. The goal here is to get your child thinking about what he/she could say or do. The roles can be reversed as well. You play the shy child and have your child’s bear be the one to help you think it through. Additionally, when you’re out in public, model what you would like your child to be doing in social situations. When you come in contact other people, say hello and ask how they are doing. Smile too!!

4. Don’t force your child – It’s important not to label your child as shy. While it’s okay to be a shy child, if you start labeling him/her or the behavior, it negatively reinforces the problem.

5. Incorporate their interests – What is your child really interested in? Does he/she love polar bears? Have him/her bring some books, toys or pictures to the classroom. While we just talked about how important it is not to force your child to talk, provide him/her with an opportunity to share what he/she brought in with classmates.

6. Give your child some “go to” lines – Sometimes it’s just the initial communication exchange that can be most challenging. Once they’re over the “hump” engaging with another peer becomes easier. Go over some “go to” lines that your child can use when meeting a new friend or wanting to play with a friend in his/her class.

  • Hi, how are you?
  • What’s your name?
  • Do you want to play?
  • Can I play too?
  • I like your ____.

7. Read books – There are many books that talk about being shy or have a shy character in them. Some book ideas include, “Are You Shy?” “Little Miss Shy” and “Shy Spaghetti and Excited Eggs.”

8. Social stories – Social stories are a great way to talk about difficult situations. Social stories provide a child with information about situations that he/she may find difficult or uncomfortable. You can find stories online or even write one of your own. By making one yourself, you can use pictures of actual people and places to make it more lifelike.

9. Improve your child’s self-esteem – You always want your child to feel good about him/her. Have your child tell you 10 things they like about himself/herself. Provide positive feedback when it’s appropriate (i.e. “You did such a great job saying hi to your friend.”) Teachers can also be helpful in promoting your child’s self-esteem.

10. Seek outside help – if it seems like your child is more than just shy, it may be helpful to seek advice from a professional. Some red flags include being socially withdrawn, avoiding eye contact, having a tantrum or crying before going to a social situation.  Remember to stay positive, be patient and always model good social skill behaviors!

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Tanya Lotzof

Tanya Lotzof received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2008 and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from Northwestern University in 2010. During her academic program, working in the clinic at Northwestern University, she gained experience with children of all ages. Her externships included time at Jefferson School in Niles, IL where she worked with preschool and pre-kindergarten children as well as time at Loyola Hospital in Maywood, IL where she worked with infants/babies, children and teenagers. Her primary areas of interest include expressive/receptive language delays, articulation and phonological speech disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders and apraxia. Tanya has always had a passion for working with children. She continues to strive to make a positive difference in children’s lives. A team approach, that incorporates family members and other related professionals into the treatment of the child, is a model of therapy that Tanya strongly believes in.

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