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11 Most Practical Ways to help your toddler overcome shyness

help toddler overcome shyness
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Wondering how to help a toddler overcome shyness? It can feel like an uphill battle when there are usually a lot of other issues to be dealt with at the same time. Toddlers face any range of issues from social developmental ones to physical developmental issues. As a parent, focusing on how to help a child socialize can feel overwhelming. 

When considering how to help a toddler overcome shyness, you need to consider the financial and social resources available to you. You also need to look at your child’s personality and the personalities of those around your child. Including your own personality. The next section explains why. 

Let us first talk about how a toddler becomes shy in the first place. Is it even possible to find a root cause?

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What causes a toddler to be shy?

Your toddler may express shyness for any one of the following reasons:

  1. Genetics. If yourself and your partner are both shy people, you should not be surprised that you have a toddler who shows these same tendencies. It is possible that you have both learned coping techniques over the years but it will take a while for your toddler to learn to manage their shyness as well.
  2. Social experiences. From watching the social interactions around them, some toddlers will mimic behaviours. One of these behaviours could be shyness. They can pick this up from school or classmates or at home from parents and siblings. Watching parents and siblings interact outside the home with others in a shy way may make them think this is the right and normal way to interact with others.
  3. Attention extremes. Getting either too much attention or too much attention can cause shyness. When toddlers get too much attention, they can become overwhelmed and withdraw. They could also react to getting too little attention by trying to shrink into the background as they feel they are being ignored anyway. Both reactions can be interpreted as shyness. 
  4. Invasions of privacy. If a toddler feels like their personal space has been breached both literally and figuratively, they could start to exhibit shyness as they become uncomfortable.
  5. Formal situations. Even for adults, formal situations can be daunting. Toddlers, like adults or anyone of any age can feel uncomfortable in environments that require them to be unnaturally still, quiet or not as relaxed as they would like to be.

Do toddlers grow out of being shy?

Not necessarily. Toddlers may outgrow their shyness if they get the skills they need to function despite being shy. They may also overcome their shyness over time. 

Toddlers can outgrow shyness when it is simply happening as part of their development. Around the age 3-4, they will start to open up, if that is the case. 

It is less likely that they will outgrow their shyness if it is genetic. If being shy is in their genes rather than just learned, toddlers can rather be taught to manage their shyness better. 

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Can I make my shy toddler more confident?

Honig provides some useful tips on how to help a shy child to socialize or overcome their shyness when necessary. Here are the ones that I find most practical.

  1. Pattern observations. Make note of or keep a diary recording the times when your toddler is most shy. What are their triggers and how do they behave? This will inform where you choose to take them to and will help you to predict how your toddler will react in different situations. 
  1. Do not force it. Do not try to force your shy toddler into situations where they will be u comfortable. More often than not, things will not turn out well and you will only raise their anxiety levels. 
  1. Take the focus away from competition. Help your toddler overcome shyness by making group activities more about having fun than about being competitive. Focusing on competition only makes an environment more daunting to a shy child. 
  1. Show constant physical affection. You need to make them feel loved constantly while also encouraging them to spread their wings and come out of their shell. Lots of hugs and cuddles and kisses will make your toddler’s efforts feel appreciated. 
  1. Listen. As their parent, a shy toddler is likely to speak more freely to you than to other people outside of them. Be sure to listen closely as it may give you clues as to why they react to situations in the way that they do and how exactly to help them overcome their shyness. 
  1. Create routines for security. Routines are reassuring for shy toddlers. It provides them with a sense of security when they know what to expect and when. Surprises, even when pleasant, can be unnerving. Chaos can be traumatising. 
  1. Set a good example. As their parent, they have you as their main example of how to behave in social settings. Model self-confidence for your shy toddler in your communication with others. 
  1. Balance. To help your toddler overcome shyness, strike a balance between unconditional love and over-dependence on you. Knowing your toddler struggles with shyness might make you feel overprotective of them. Control the urge to over protect and do not let them depend too much on you to relate with other people. At the same time, let them know you are there if they need you. 
  1. Have realistic expectations. You know your toddler best. You know what they are capable of and how outgoing they can be at home with you. If they are naturally quiet and shy at home too, do not expect them to become the life of the party when they are outside the home. Be realistic also about how quickly they should be expected to overcome their shyness in different environments. 
  1. Experiment with age groups. You might find that your child is less shy in the company of older kids, for example, than with kids their own age. 
  1. Give lots of praise. Show how proud you are of them when they make the effort to step out of their comfort zone. Vocalise. Say what it is that they did and explain why it was a great achievement. 

All these points are excellent steps to help your toddler overcome shyness. 

Specific activities also encourage your toddler to come out of their shell or help them to be more comfortable in group settings even if they are working independently. Those are the best activities for a shy child. Find 9 of them below. 

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9 Best activities for a shy child

  1. Gardening. This is definitely one of the best activities for a shy child as they gey to be outdoors enjoying some fresh air. It is also a great way for you, as a parent, to spend time with your kid. 
  1. Role play. You might find that your shy toddler is naturally doing this at home anyway. Encourage it and get involved too as it will give you the opportunity to show them how to interact with others in real everyday life. 
  1. Small play dates. Making friends is daunting for a shy child. Help your toddler overcome shyness by organising play dates made up of one or two other children. This is a small enough group of kids that your toddler will not feel overwhelmed. 
  1. Swimming. This is both a great team sport and a great individual sport. Learning to swim and doing well at it will give your shy toddler some confidence that carries over into other areas of life. 
  1. Field trips. This does not have to be a trip very far away. A trip even 15 minutes away from home or school can feel exciting as long as it is a new location. A shy toddler will have the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone in a not-so-daunting way. 
  1. Martial arts. This is one of the best activities for a shy toddler especially if they are lacking confidence. It gives them the structure they need to feel safe while also giving them the chance to make friends. 
  1. Dance class. This gets them out of their comfort zone but in a fun manner. They get to move their bodies which helps them to shed their inhibitions. It’s a great way to socialise. 
  1. Arts and crafts. This is a great way to help a toddler overcome shyness. In a group of other children, it is a good activity as a shy toddler may be forced to interact with other kids but will also have the chance to focus on the activity as an individual. 

DOWNLOAD: 12 Easy & Fun Toddler crafts to do at home

  1. Drama class. A bit like dance classes, this also brings a shy child out of their shell in a fun way. They also get the chance to play different people which gives them the experience of being more confident versions of themselves. 

In conclusion…

If you are looking for ways to help your toddler overcome shyness, you are most likely feeling frustrated or a bit heartbroken for them. Maybe you are feeling a combination of both. 

Remember that your toddler is still very young and they have many more years ahead of them within which things can and probably will change very drastically. As most things do with kids, toddlers seem to be able to work through a lot of issues with time and maturity. 

Do what you can to help by using the activities above and the strategies mentioned and leave the rest to time. 

With a shy toddler, when should you be worried? You know your toddler best. If you believe that your toddler is dealing with more than shyness, you may need to seek professional help for them. For example, if what they exhibit is more social anxiety than shyness, you may not be fully equipped to help them through it on their own and you should therefore seek professional help.

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