“We always thought he was just shy.”
“The school said that she was timid, but to give her time and to not force her.”
“I was reserved too as a kid, but this seemed different.”
“We waited, thinking he would grow out of it, but it only got worse.”
A parent’s internal battle of when to wait and when to take steps to address their child’s excessive shyness is a real one. It’s a daunting and confusing decision as parents may be getting mixed messages from loved ones, schools, and outside providers of what is considered “normal.” If a child is genetically predisposed to anxiety, however, this is often detectable very early in life. For example, infants and toddlers may be wary of strangers, behaviorally inhibited, and/or difficult to soothe. With that said, having a more introverted temperament doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will develop an anxiety disorder.
So… how can you as a parent know whether your child needs help overcoming their shyness or whether they are a bit on the introverted end of the personality spectrum?
The main answer to this question is whether your child’s inhibition is negatively affecting their functioning at home, in school, or in the community. Specifically, has your child’s shyness prevented them from…
- establishing or maintaining meaningful friendships?
- regularly attending school?
- communicating with peers or teachers at school?
- participating in birthday parties, extra-curriculars, or other group gatherings?
- engaging in activities that they enjoy?
- interacting with familiar adults in their community (e.g., neighbors, extended family, doctors)?
- being able to calmly separate from immediate family members?
Does your child almost always feel or appear anxious in these situations? If so, has this been going on for a month or longer? And does your child’s shyness and/or their need for your support and reassurance cause you distress?
If you find yourself answering yes to a lot of these questions, it’s possible your child could benefit from increased support to help them be more brave in specific, feared situations. There are many children’s books about worries and bravery that would be great to begin reading together and talking about. There are also great books geared towards parents.
Children’s Books about Worry:
- Help Your Dragon Deal with Anxiety by Steve Herman
- What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner and Bonnie Matthews
- Don’t Feed The Worry Bug by Andi Green
- When You Are Braveby Pat Zietlow Miller
- Outsmarting Worry: An Older Kids Guide to Managing Anxiety by Dawn Huebner
Parent Books about Anxious Kids:
- Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers by Eli Lebowitz and Haim Omer
- Growing up Brave by Donna Pincus
- Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Revised and Updated Edition: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life–from Toddlers to Teens by Tamar Chansky
- Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by Ronald Rapee
If you feel you need more guidance talk to your child’s primary care physician, school counselor, or a mental health professional regarding strategies you can take to help target your child’s bravery and/or potential referrals for your child’s specific challenges. Or give us a call at 212-658-0110. We are here to help and would love to set up a phone call with you to hear your concerns and give you more specific guidance regarding whether our services are a good fit for you and your family.