I have a confession to make: I’m shy.
It surprises people when I admit this fact in conversation. I emcee events, host a daily radio show, and have even been the featured speaker at a number of women’s retreats. So how could I be…shy? In my mind, I’m still the little girl who hid behind my mom’s legs when people tried to talk to me, and “the quiet one” among my group of friends during my teenage years. As I watched my more talkative and outgoing friends mingle, it made me wish to be more extroverted. But I’ve had a long time to process being an introvert.
Now, my “bookend” children are more introverted and definitely my “homebodies”. And I want to help guide them as they deal with growing up shy, so they can feel comfortable in their own genes, so to speak. If you have shy children, here are some guidelines to encourage them as they grow:
1. Understand the shyness
I want to encourage you, parent to parent. Don’t worry if your child is an introvert. Yes, it’ll seem like the outgoing kids get all the cred. (And doesn’t it seem like it stays that way even as adults?) But don’t feel you need to be a helicopter parent to be sure they don’t get hurt or overrun by their peers.
Let her know shyness is not a fault, it’s a trait; it’s nothing to feel ashamed of as she becomes more aware of herself.
2. Affirm, don’t apologize
You have the choice to speak life or tear down through your words. So don’t make excuses for your child’s shyness, especially in front of your child. Don’t apologize by telling friends, “oh he’s just shy.” Being shy doesn’t equate with having a problem. Many shy people are naturally peaceful and have a strong self-concept. Do let her know that you have faith in her and what she is capable of. And also teach her to be confident in herself, even if she’s not as talkative as the kid who sits next to her. Teach your child to repeat to herself that she can be confident in who she is, and it will be more likely she will believe it!
3. Encourage the uncomfortable
It’s all too easy to give up when you feel uneasy. For an introvert, even a simple conversation is hard to handle. So if a situation makes your child feel unworthy, don’t encourage him to leave. You’re just reinforcing the shyness. It’s not easy, but he’ll be stronger when he faces the situation head-on. Turn the fearful situation into a place of introspection and personal growth. You can teach your children to engage with others with this list of communication skills.
4. Accept the way they are
As your shy child grows, encourage them to do things they’re passionate about. Perhaps it’s more behind-the-scenes, or even an activity out of his comfort zone. My oldest plays varsity basketball and my youngest competes in gymnastics, despite their natural tendency to stay in the background.
Let her know the fear of rejection is natural, but not to let that overcome the decision to try something new. We all experience rejection – no matter how old we are or how outgoing we are. Remind her she is not alone and it is part of life and our learning process.
Let her know the fear of rejection is natural, but not to let that overcome the decision to try something new.
Don’t label your child as shy. Let them know they are unique, beautiful, and list the traits you love about them. And leave it at that.
What are the best qualities of your introverted child?
Lori Clapper is a radio personality, freelance writer, editor, speaker, mom to three kids, and is married to an incredible guy.