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5 Tips to Help Shy Kids Gain Confidence

child hiding underneath pillows with only small portion of face looking out

Many parents may be at a loss when it comes to helping their shy child. These kids may experience many social and emotional challenges as they grow up, and are at greater risk for developing anxiety or depressive disorders.

Unaddressed issues can lead to insecurity and feeling socially withdrawn, these symptoms even following them into adulthood. As parents, it is important to gently push your children while maintaining kindness and patience. Here are 5 tips to help your shy kids gain some self confidence.

1. Model Social Interactions

Many children learn how to behave in social situations by watching their caregivers. One way to have them gain confidence is to model the behaviors you want to see and encourage your child to follow in your direction. Take the initiative to start a conversation and show them how to be warm and welcoming when engaging. Having your child around when socializing with personal friends will help as well.

2. Use Praise

When you see your child handling a situation well, praise them and tell them you’re proud. Gently push them into speaking to others, such as saying hello to someone they just met, or ordering for themselves in restaurants. Allow them to navigate the situation and then praise them afterwards. Offer assistance when needed, but try to encourage them to manage social interactions on their own.

3. Prepare for Uncomfortable Situations

For upcoming social events you know your child will have to face, such as the start of school, walk through the event with them. Prepare them with logistics, such as who will be there, what will happen, and for how long. Allow them to ask questions to ease any anxieties they may have.

Going to the place beforehand, like exploring the classroom and the school, will create familiarity with the location. The more you can prepare a child for an uncomfortable situation, the more confident they will feel.

4. Role-Playing

Another way of preparing children for social situations is role-playing. Pretend to be a peer, teacher, or waiter at a restaurant and help the child navigate their way through the conversation. Give them a situation or a task to complete by talking to someone new. Since they are comfortable with their caregivers, the interaction will be much easier for them. With practice, the child may gain more confidence with their social skills and feel better with engaging in future conversations.

5. Encourage Independence

Parents and caregivers of shy children are all too familiar with them clinging to their side when they are afraid to try something new. One way to overcome this is to encourage independence. Start small, such as assigning them chores to do at home, or helping you pick out groceries at the store. Increase the responsibility gradually, like asking them to place the groceries on the counter, or having them pay the cashier. Small steps will help them gain confidence and feel better about doing things on their own.

What NOT to Do

Avoid labeling your child as “shy” or “introverted.” It’s okay if your child is more on the quiet side, but this does not mean they fit into a box. No child is one singular thing, and telling your child they are will only increase the likeliness that they act that way. Provide validation for how they feel, yet encourage them to work through their uncomfortable emotions.

Remember not to force any new situation on children. It is a gradual learning process, and it may take a few tries for the child to become confident in their social abilities.

If you find these tips are not working, or if your child is still emotionally distraught in social situations, reach out and schedule a session a session with us for child therapy. Work together to support your child and encourage them to break out of their shell.

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Green Heart Therapy provides in-person psychotherapy for adults, teens, and children in Los Angeles and online therapy across California.