Understanding Why Preschoolers May Act Shy And What Parents Can Do

As toddlers start school and become preschoolers, they sometimes regress to clinging tightly to their parents. Parents can be frustrated by this behavior when before their child was happy and content to meet new people, but now every goodbye is filled with tears.

Preschoolers are still learning how to interact with other people in social situations and may become reticent or bashful with unfamiliar places or people.

Why is my preschooler acting shy?

Although research continues to develop theories about why people act the way they do, it is clear that personality is part nature and part nurture. In other words, some kids are just born more shy than others and sometimes it's all about the way a child was raised. So, despite a parent's best efforts, a child may have in a shy way no matter what parents do to help the child come out of their shell.

How can I help my shy preschooler?

Parents should keep in mind the issues that putting a label on a child can do, and should strive not to call the child shy or think of it as a problem. Kids will live up, or down, to the expectations set for them. Research shows that most shy kids are actually very well adjusted, but there are things parents can do to boost their self-esteem.

In fact, it's important not to try to change the shy child, but instead prepare the child for situations that may be a challenge. For example, a child who shies away from large crowds and noisy situations like a party can play-act with parents to help them practice coping mechanisms ahead of time. The trick is for the parent to play the part of the shy child and have the shy child tell the parent how to act and talk at the troublesome situation.

How do I prepare my shy child for preschool?

  • Sign up with a friend, or help your child make a friend in the class before school starts. It really helps to have a familiar face in a new situation. A play date with a friend before school starts can also make a big difference. If you do not know anyone in the class, ask the teacher if there is anyone in your area who will be in the class and arrange to meet.
  • Go to the tour or orientation. A shy child will feel a lot more comfortable if he or she sees the classroom and meets the teacher before the big day.
  • Practice. Have your shy child practice talking to friends who visit the house by doing things like giving a tour of the house. This will let the child practice conversation and be understood.
  • Enlist older students. If a big brother or sister goes to the same school, ask them to look out for the child. A simple wave on the playground can make a shy child feel much more comfortable and accepted.
  • Start and stick to a good-bye ritual. Sneaking away at drop-off is definitely a no-no. The child may feel betrayed and abandoned. Instead start a ritual that works for both of you but that does not threaten the system of the classroom.

How can I help my child make friends?

Help your shy child by introducing him or her to one new person at a time. Do not just focus on children the child's own age because having older and younger friends can let your child follow the lead of an older child and be the leader with a younger one.

Parents should keep in mind that kids exhibit shyness as a way to protect themselves. However, if you are very concerned, a chat with the child's teacher to get his or her perspective on how the child is doing in class can ease any worries. If there is another question that a child may be unusually shy, a chat with the child's doctor is the best place to start.


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