There are varying degrees of shyness in children, which determine the fact that the avoidance of social relationships becomes an obstacle to the child’s development or a personality trait that enriches both him and his environment . But who is a shy child? One who has “some degree of withdrawal in relationships with other children or adults and who manifests a certain tendency to avoid relating to unfamiliar people or to interact in interpersonal contexts that go out of the familiar routine or that are complex, because they cause strong feelings of shame, discomfort, insecurity or anxiety ”, explains Silvia Arcas, a psychologist specializing in children and adolescents.
Is the shy child born or made? It is a mix between innate and acquired traits. Children with “more introverted or introspective innate temperaments are more vulnerable to becoming somewhat shy people. They show a more intense and reactive neurological activation in the face of environmental stimuli. They are more sensitive to the entire flow of sensory and social information they receive. This causes them an information overload that, often, surpasses them and that they tend to perceive as threatening, which causes them stress and a certain emotional blockage, ”says Arcas.
The way of relating of a shy child is characterized by being carried out with “a smaller group of people. They establish more intimate and lasting contacts. In more complex interpersonal contexts, they may manifest some initial difficulties. However, when they gain confidence, they are as spontaneous, cheerful and expansive as any other child. Also, they need more solitary spaces to feed back on their dreams and thoughts. But, this need does not undermine the establishment of high quality and pleasant social relationships, “adds the psychologist.
Peculiarities of shy children
The difference between a healthy shyness and another difficult to manage is determined by contexts where the child’s self-esteem is promoted and “their collective participation is reinforced. In these cases, shy children tend to be more prudent and attentive to the needs of others; more aware of social norms and conventions when regulating their behavior. In the case of pathological shyness, it can have serious repercussions on the child’s life, because it is the source of intense suffering that can lead to anxiety, depression or social phobia in adolescence and adulthood ”, clarifies Silvia Arcas.
A quiet child who enjoys solitude may not be shy. There are little ones who enjoy being alone. But, in the case of shy children, “they feel ashamed or fear when they try to relate, so loneliness is not a voluntary decision. A sociable child seeks out and enjoys social relationships, whereas when shyness comes into play, it is a cause of anxiety, discomfort, and even physical discomfort, such as stomachaches. Throughout the child’s life, it is common for there to be stages that go through a certain level of shyness, as in the case of changes in educational center, school cycle or classmates. Fear of peer evaluation and avoidance of certain social situations is very common in adolescents. However, shyness is not a problem in itself. It depends on whether it becomes an obstacle for the child’s social interaction or whether he can have satisfactory social relationships without affecting his potentialities or well-being ”, declares Montserrat Díaz, PhD in Translational Medicine and Neuropsychologist at the San Lorenzo Integral Center.
Differentiate between shyness and depression in children
It is useful to distinguish between a shy child and one who is sad or depressed. “In the first case, there is satisfactory participation in all activities, except those that involve exposure to feared situations and that provoke shy or withdrawn behavior. In the case of the depressed child, there is a constant pattern of low interest and enjoyment in any situation, whether social or not. Also, he is listless, irritable; without energy and with feelings of worthlessness. It should be remembered that a shy child who suffers excessively can become depressed. Likewise, shy little ones have a facility to interpret gestures and looks, so with them, you have to take care of communication, both oral and non-verbal, ”adds Montserrat Díaz, who mentions several recommendations with shy children, such as:
- Promote social activities with other children, such as sports, games or theater.
- Avoid comparisons with other children or hurtful comments like, you will run out of friends for being like that.
- Motivate the child to be more outgoing, without ever forcing him.
- Encourage autonomy with simple daily activities, such as allowing him to comb himself, tidy up his room or choose his clothes.
- Invite other children home to promote social interaction.
- Serve as an example of sociability for the child.
- Celebrate achievements and progress with affection to reinforce your self-esteem.
- Avoid overprotection of the child.
You can follow De mamas & de papas in Facebook, Twitter or sign up here to receive our biweekly newsletter.