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Your Shy Toddler

by Lori Sciame | January 18th, 2012 | Infants/Toddlers

Who doesn’t love the precocious toddler? You know, the child that talks easily to the checkout person at the local store, excited about the new toy she has clutched in her hands? Or the child who bubbles over with laughter and smiles on cue at portrait taking time, often saying “cheese” to boot! But what about the shy toddler? The one who hides behind mom or dad whenever strangers come too close, often looking away when spoken to – especially in checkout lines. And the toddler who finds cameras to be scary and flashbulbs to be startling?

I firmly believe most shy people are born that way. For example, I have a cousin who had twin girls three years ago. Both have had extremely similar life experiences, and both have been showered with love, yet one is extremely shy, while the other doesn’t have a shy bone in her body. What could cause this to happen? Being born that way, the same as being born with black, curly hair or hazel eyes!

As I watch these beautiful girls grow, I have been reminded that our world embraces the outgoing child; the one who jumps at the chance to meet people and to have new experiences. As you may imagine, the outgoing twin receives much more attention at family gatherings, which sends the wrong message to the introverted little girl – her tendency to be cautious and retiring does not seem to be valued as much as her sister’s outspokenness.

So what can a parent of a shy child do to make sure he or she is comfortable in social situations? Fortunately, there has been much written on the topic of shyness, so addressing the issue can be easier than you think.

First, make sure that you model friendly behavior yourself. Make an effort to greet people when you enter a new setting, such as a birthday party, and talk to the cashier in the checkout line. If you actively show your child that such situations do not make you tense, and that you enjoy meeting people, eventually they will pick up your habits.

Next, offer opportunities for them to play with other children. This also helps your son or daughter master social skills. And, as they grow, you can talk about what it is to be a good friend.

Finally, don’t force your child to interact if he or she is not ready. Many times, a shy toddler feels extra sensitive, and making her sit on the lap of a strange aunt, not matter how wonderful the aunt is, can only make matters worse. Give your child time to warm up – and eventually she will want to hug auntie all on her own.

Hopefully, these steps will provide a basis for aiding your child’s transition from shyness to embracing the world. One thing to remember when addressing this issue – a shy child, if not helped, can end up missing out on many opportunities in life.

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