Easing Shyness in the Schoolyard

Is your child hesitant to play with classmates at school? Find out how you can help her engage with other kids and overcome her shyness.
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Frank Heckers

Q: My shy 6-year-old is fearful of joining in playground games at school. How can I help her?

A: The first thing you can do to help your daughter is to talk to her teacher. "Since this is a school-related problem, the teacher should work with you to build your daughter's confidence," explains Darlene Powell Hopson, Ph.D., of the Hopson Center for psychological and educational services in Middlefield, Connecticut, and co-author of Raising the Rainbow Generation.

There are some things that you can do to help your child as well. Allow her to express her fears, and reassure her that lots of people feel timid when it comes to joining group games. You might tell her, "After you say the first hello, the other kids usually want to include you, and then you get to share in all the fun."

It's helpful to teach your daughter what to say when she wants to join an activity. (For instance: "Hi. Your game looks like fun. Can I play?") You can role-play various playground scenarios with her for practice. If she still needs an extra boost to fit in, ask an older or more socially secure child to act as your daughter's buddy and to help her get involved with the other kids.

Finally, you can advance your child's one-on-one friendships by inviting kids from her class to your home or to a local playground for playdates. The more she considers the other kids her friends, the more comfortable she'll feel joining in their play.

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