Your child dreads going to school and hides behind you every time someone comes up to say hi. Every assessment card says he needs to interact with his peers more. Fear not, you are not alone. Shyness or the fear to communicate with people is something which most people claim to have felt at some point of time in their lives. For kids it is doubly difficult as most often they are clueless about how to deal with such situations.

As parents, it can be very difficult for you to deal with such kids as this inherent shyness translates to having no friends, or poor performance in school as they may be too nervous to ask questions or get doubts cleared. With constant support and continuous encouragement, you can help your child over come shyness and reach his full potential.

1. Empathize, not criticize

One of the biggest favours you can do for your shy child is not to brand him as ‘shy’. For instance, when he refuses to look up and respond when someone greets him or asks his name, don’t immediately respond by saying ‘Oh he is so shy’. Don’t give him the impression that some thing is wrong with him. Instead, speak to him about how normal it is to feel the way he does and how most kids his age go through the same thing. Encourage him to open up to you about what he is really feeling and what his fears are. The knowledge that you are not judging him will make him feel better about himself.

2. Be a role model

More often than not, your child will model his behaviour based on how you behave. You could for example say a cheery good morning to the person at the back of you in supermarket billing counter , or say thank you and smile to the person serving you in a fast food joint. Take him along to your local club or even a kitty party and let him see how you interact with your peers. Invite friends with kids over for dinner or brunch.

3. Tap the power of play

Use role play as a tool to teach him how to interact with others. For instance, you could take the part of a kid who wants to join a group and show him ways to introduce himself, how to make eye contact, make small talk, smile etc. Once he masters these essential social skills, he will be more confident to go over and join kids in real play ground.

4. Teach him to handle difficult situations

If he is nervous about an upcoming birthday party, talk to him about what would make him fell less nervous, could he go together with a friend? Could he pitch in to help the birthday kid by going in early and helping with the decorations? Could he think of interesting topics to speak with the others? This preparation will give him a sense of empowerment which will boost his self confidence.

5. Provide him opportunities

Give your child plenty of opportunities to interact with peers. Be careful not to tread the thin line between empathy and being over protective. Let him interact at his own pace.

6. Use the P word

Praise and applaud your child, when he takes a small step towards conquering shyness. This will play a big role in boosting his self confidence and sense of self worth.

7. Quality over quantity

Reassure your child that one good friend is worth fifty acquaintances. Don’t let him feel pressurized into being’ popular’. If he has one special friend whom he can talk with share his feeling or play with at break time then he is good to go. Don’t force him to make more friends than he can handle.

8. Foster his interests

Take him to classes that are in line with his interests, like a sports class or arts class where he can relax and have a good time. This creates an environment to meet like minded kids in a low stress space where he is not compelled to interact.

9. Cut down on expectations

Overcoming shyness doesn’t happen over night or for that matter even in a weeks. It is a slow often painful process which can be frustrating both for you and your child. It is vital that you try to stay positive and offer encouragement however slow the progress might be.

10. Ask for help

As a parent you know your child better than anyone else. If you suspect that your child is more than just shy and would benefit from professional help, do not hesitate. This just might be what will help your child come out of his cocoon and enjoy life. Join parent communities and bond with similar parents. Knowing that you are not alone will help you deal with the situation in a better way.