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How to Encourage Your Shy Child (While Honoring Her Nature)

Do you worry about your child’s ability to socialize with friends and initiate with peers? Does your child demonstrate a shy temperament? Follow these simple strategies to encourage your shy child to improve peer relationships.

Check in with your child about her expectations.

Is your child satisfied with the state of her affairs? Does she prefer to be the quiet one in the bunch? Is she content with limited exposure with friends outside of school? Finding out what your child’s goals are is helpful to resolving your own questions as now you can better help her meet her expectations. If your goal is to have your child be the social butterfly and she is telling you she prefers not, it is up to you to reformulate your thinking about what to expect. If you still feel like it would be in her best interest to improve face time with friends, encourage her to set up plans with a friend outside of school at least once a week. She can choose the peer and the activity. This is helping facilitate necessary social skills and interactions as well as meeting both your goals. If your child wishes for more in terms of peer relationships, validate her feelings and provide solutions to help her increase peer interaction.

Role-play scenarios to increase confidence.

Setting up time to practice conversation, initiation, and self-expression in non-triggering environments will allow your child the time to practice these skills. Another fun option would be to set up your child with a more outgoing sibling, cousin, or family friend who she feels comfortable with to practice age-appropriate social skills.

Don’t push but motivate.

Before entering into social gatherings, have a conversation with your child about how she imagines this situation will go. Arm her with options that she can engage in such as a variety of questions she can ask, activities that she can initiate and self-coping strategies she can implement if she does not want to interact with people (spend time with mom, offer to help the host, watch TV, bring a book to read). Preparation and planning is key to reduce any anxiety that may occur when in social situations.

Click here to watch a short video on encouraging your child to make friends.

What to Do if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend

Picture this: It is Wednesday afternoon, and your fifth grade child runs off of the school bus and into your house. You hear an extra set of footsteps and think to yourself, “Oh how nice, he has a friend over.”  You enter the kitchen to greet him and his friend when you see the refrigerator AND pantry left open.  Food crumbs and wrappers are on the floor. Your son likes his things relatively clean and tidy.  Your son cleans up after himself. His friend must be over, and to be honest, he isn’t your favorite child.

If your child has one (or a few) friend(s) that agitate you, it may be difficult at times to manage your emotions about it, as well as to be supportive of your child’s friendships.  Read on for tips to help you deal with a friend of your child’s who you do not particularly like.

Tips to deal with your child’s friend you dislike:

  • Keep discussion about the disliked peer separate from discussions you have with, or around, your child. You are entitled to not favor any of your child’s peers, for whatever reason.  However, it is important that your child is unburdened by your feelings. You can deal with your feelings by talking with a spouse or friend about it, although it is best to choose just one person with whom to share these feelings. Talking to many people about your child’s friend makes it easier for the information to get back to your child. Writing your feelings out in a journal is a safe and effective way to ‘get out’ the thoughts you have about the peer as well.
  • Look for the positives in the disliked peer, and praise them. Test yourself, and try to come up with two things about the disliked friend that are positive. Simple things such as ‘they dress nice’ or ‘they have a good hair cut’ are acceptable. Just start by finding two positives. Once you find those positives, point them out to your child’s peer next time you see him (Ex.“Your hair looks nice today.” or “You played soccer very well last night in the game.”). Focusing on the positives will help you to feel slightly better about the peer, at least in that moment. The more times you point out a positive, the better you’ll feel about the individual overall. Read more