How to Help Your Shy Child

On the Playground

Timidness trigger: You and your child visit the playground one afternoon but don't see any familiar faces. You suggest that she ask some of the kids to play, but she won't even try.

Why so shy? Approaching a group is scary even for adults -- imagine if you walked into a party full of strangers. "All social situations are somewhat unpredictable," says Dr. Markway. Preschoolers crave familiarity and routine -- and fear rejection (like everybody does) -- so these situations are nerve-racking.

How you can help: Start small. "It's less intimidating to meet people one-on-one," says Stanley Turecki, MD, author of The Difficult Child. If that's not possible, suggest she talk to a small group of kids instead. When she's ready, help her find an opening. Say, "It looks like those kids need some new blue chalk. Maybe you could bring your box over." If she hesitates, offer to go with her and help make the introduction.

Modeling good social skills helps too, as Michelle Grotz-Rhone, of Beverly Hills, discovered when her family moved. "My 5-year-old, Nina, was always so quiet when I dropped her off at her new school, and I wanted her to be her usual sunny self," she says. But instead of focusing on Nina's shyness, Grotz-Rhone started conversations with Nina's classmates and their parents. Later, she'd compliment the other kids' friendliness to inspire Nina to copy their behavior. For example, she'd say, "It was so thoughtful of them to invite us over" or "I really liked how nice she was."

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