Erin Patrice O?Brien
Your shy child may be anxious on unfamiliar terrain and may be more an observer than a joiner. Since new situations can be hard for slow-to-warm-up children, give her time to feel at ease.
How to bring out her best:
- Let her (literally) lean on you. When she is meeting someone new, hold your toddler in your arms and speak in a soothing, calming voice.
- Take it slowly. This child won't enjoy being swooped up by a distant relative for a big wet kiss. Suggest that offering a favorite toy will help her connect.
- Mix new tastes with familiar ones. "Cautious kids may also be tentative about trying new foods," says Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a nonprofit research and education organization in Washington, D.C. Give her something familiar, like applesauce, that she can dip the new food into.
- Prep her. If you're going somewhere new, fill her in about what to expect. Dogs, siblings, swing set -- the more she knows, the more comfortable she'll be.
- Value her personal style. Not everyone needs to be a social butterfly. There's nothing wrong with a child who has a few treasured friends and likes to keep things low-key. So don't be pushy, and don't make your child feel "less than" if she's not mixing it up with other kids. Instead, join her in observing the energy around her, without pressuring her to enter the fray.