It’s not unusual for a toddler to feel shy, especially when he or she is introduced to new places, people, or experiences for the first time. Some children have naturally timid personalities, and may feel awkward or uncomfortable in large groups. Others simply take longer to warm up and make new friends.
While having a shy child is not necessarily a negative thing, it can be a challenge. This is particularly true when your little ones start going to school, and have to learn to make friends on their own.
Fortunately, as parents, there is a lot that we can do to help our toddlers overcome their shyness, and venture outside their comfort zones. Here, we share some practical advice for parents who want to help develop a shy child’s confidence.
Create opportunities for interaction
A great first step is choosing to spend more time on the playground or in playgroups. This provides toddlers with opportunities to meet other children in an environment that is safe, fun and dynamic.
No access to a playground? Any place can present opportunities for your toddler to interact with others. For instance, mommy Zita Cortez brings her 3-year old daughter with her wherever she goes, so she isn’t just confined to her toys at home.
“I try to expose her to a lot of people of different ages, that way she knows how to deal with kids her age, and older people, too,” she shares. “I want her to experience the real world through our daily errands like going to the market, the bank or the mall. Sometimes, I even ask her to help me pay for our purchases at the cashier.”
Let your toddler set the pace
Teaching your child to build confidence may take some time and a lot of patience. While it can be tempting to rush your toddler into trying new things and making more friends, it helps to check that he or she is truly ready to do so. Push too hard, and this may become a source of unwanted stress on our kids.
For Zita, this is the rule of thumb when it comes to her daughter. “I don’t force her to join activities,” she says. “I only encourage her, and let her go at her own pace.”
Use positive words
When kids are faced with something new, words of assurance from someone they trust, like a parent, can help build their confidence. This is something that mom Barbara De Jesus has proven effective when it comes to her child. “I tell her things like ‘You are strong,’ and ‘Luna is so brave.’ These are words of encouragement,” she shares.
Make it fun
“Show enthusiasm in doing something new,” says Barbara. If your toddler sees that you are eager to try new things, it could get him or her excited to try, too. “Make it like play time or a game,” she adds. Removing pressure from the situation can definitely benefit your child.
Lead by example
One way to teach your toddlers how to overcome shyness is to show them how it’s done. Take the initiative to talk to more people, and let your little ones see you doing so. Initiate new activities and experiences for you to do together.
“If you want your kids to read, introduce books. Take them to places where they can try sports and games,” shares Beth Magincol, a teacher who has worked with small children at her family’s preschool. “By being a positive influence, you can greatly help your child in developing confidence and rapport with other kids.”
Beth emphasizes the value of communication when dealing with shy children. “Get to know them,” she advises parents. “This way you will understand how they really feel, and why they are shy.” From here, you can gain a better perspective on how to help your little one become more confident.
Be your child’s safe space
One of the most important things to do is to make sure that your kids feel secure and supported in their family and home environment. This assures them that there is a safe place for them to turn to, no matter what they encounter in the outside world.
Know that things won’t always go their way when they make new friends or try something for the first time. Make sure you are there to help and motivate them to start over.
Remember that each child is different
While the advice shared here are all worth taking, keep in mind, that each child’s personality is unique. What might help others might not always yield positive results for your toddler. It is always best to give things a try, repeat what works, learn from what doesn’t, and never be afraid to try again.
About The Writer
Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching her favorite TV series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs.