Shyness can make a child feel very anxious in social situations. It is part of the child’s personality and there is nothing wrong with being ‘shy’.

Twins tend to attract a lot of attention and when one twin is outgoing and the other is hiding behind mums leg, people are often quick to put a label on them, “that must be the shy one”! This is not very helpful and can be quite detrimental to the ‘shy’ child and actually increase their anxiety.

Here are some ways to help a shy child……

What is shy?

According to my dictionary, shy is  ‘timid and lacking self confidence’.

This is a rather negative view of being shy. Yes, shyness can be viewed in this way, however, I also believe, it can be a positive personality trait. It all depends on how the shyness is handled. Maybe we need to change our own perceptions of shyness.

Reasons it can be good being shy…..

  • Shy people are often very careful listeners
  • They can give a very welcome presence without saying a word
  • They often have an inner peace that shines
  • Shy children are often well-behaved and nice children to be around
  • They can be deep thinkers and cautious

To me, these personality traits sound great, I would love to have friends like this. Shyness should not all be focused on the negatives such as ‘the child has a poor self image’ or ‘they are withdrawn’ or ‘anxious’. We need to turn the image around and think ‘the child is reserved’ or ‘focused’ or ‘a very attentive listener’. This in turn will help the shy child.

Ways to help a shy child

  • Never label a child as ‘shy’. When a ‘shy’ label has been put on the child, pair it with something positive. Or if you must use a label, use something like ‘reserved’ or ‘private’.
  • Be a good role model by modelling confident social behaviour. Children learn through observing others, so this is especially true of parents. For example, be friendly, smile, go into situations first, often compliment others.
  • Build the childs self-esteem. Offer lots of praise. Let them know what they are doing well, no matter how small.
  • Encourage the child to participate in activities/hobbies that make them feel good and special. Utilise things they are good at eg, sport, art, music, reading etc.
  • Teach the child to manage their own emotions. Give praise and ‘rewards’ when the child makes an effort to cope with things. Allow the child to express themselves emotionally and to feel different emotions. Sadness, crying, anger, frustration etc are all normal emotions, a child needs to learn how they feel in order to learn how to deal and cope with them. Comfort the child, but don’t comfort every tiny upset. Let the child try to manage their own problem solving.
  • Allow the child to feel reserved/private (shy). The more you fight to pull them out of ‘shyness’, the more they will withdraw. It is best to create a comfortable, safe environment where the child feels they can develop their own personality naturally.
  • Never ‘force’ a child to ‘perform’. By saying something like “come on, don’t be shy, auntie won’t bite, say hello!”, you will probably just make them feel worse, and even more shy. It would be better to keep the attention off the child and they will come around in their own time. Talk to the child before hand about what is expected of them and don’t expect too much.

When one twin is shy

It can be very difficult, when someone singles out one twin as shy. Twins are individual people, not to be compared with their twin sibling. So how do you respond? It is best to just kindly disagree, or say something like, yes she is thoughtful, or reserved. This gives a more positive message to the child, that it is ok to feel the way they do, it is part of who they are.

Ways to help a shy twin….

  • Take turns – as twins are usually at the same developmental stage, it can be very easy for the more outgoing twin to dominate things, whilst the quiet child ends up relying on the other. Therefore, it is important you make sure each twin takes it in turns. Alternate questions between each child and alternate who gets to go first at things. This will ensure both twins receive equal opportunity. The ‘shy’ twin will get plenty of opportunity to develop and learn the social skills needed, without relying on their twin sibling.
  • Encourage each twin to be proud of each other. It is important that the twins learn to respect each other and each others strengths and weaknesses. Praise all successes no matter how small, this will help build their self-esteem.

Shy children need lots of sensitivity, encouragement, support, praise and acceptance.