Your precious little preschooler is in a learning phase of their life, learning about social interactions, other people’s reactions and generally just felling their way in meeting and fitting with others. A great way for children to try things is using pretend play, puppets and other toys to express themselves and practice their developing skills.
While most children possess a fantastic lack of inhibition and eagerness to try new experiences, some are not so keen to be front and centre and need a little more encouragement. Building children’s self confidence is so important, this is what will drive them to have a go, enjoy the process and not be so worried about the outcome.
Try to avoid labelling your child as shy in front of them, or letting them feel like there is something wrong with them for not being outgoing. Your child needs to know that we are all different, there are different personalities and everyone has their own way of interacting. Let your child know that it is okay for them to observe for a while and then join in, what we want is for them to feel comfortable to join in.
Try to help your child extend his/her boundaries of social comfort by gradually exposing them to situations that give them the opportunity to interact successfully with others. The more exposure they have in a non threatening way the more confident they become.
The more confident and positive a child feels about themselves, the more likely the child is to be more outgoing, willing to try new things and be less afraid of new situations. Tell your child often how special they are, how proud of them you are and how much you love them. You cannot spoil a small child, they need to know you are there for them – of course it needs to be authentic also but praise goes a long way to building self esteem and self confidence.
A little picture note in their lunch box is a nice wee surprise, a note under their pillow, a nice photo in their room of you having fun together, these are all nice touches to help your child feel safe, loved and confident to have a go at new opportunities.
If your child is “shy”, then don’t feel in a rush to help them over this hurdle. Remember the goal is to look to the long term not the short term. With love, support and opportunities the child will have a time to work through their worries and concerns and take a leap of faith and give new opportunities a try. Often the shy child needs time to observe, take in their surroundings, attend places more than once and then they are keen to join in. Let your child develop at their own rate.
This is also a good time to check your own anxiety levels. Our children look to us for guide in terms of how they should react, and what they should be afraid of. If your child senses that you are tense, they will notice it. Try to approach new situations as being fun, positive experiences.