Shyness in Toddlers

My little one changed from a baby who was happy with any adult to a little girl who wouldn’t participate in groups. She was clearly shy, but I wasn’t sure whether if it was a phase or something more permanent.

Shyness in Toddlers

From the age of around 2 ½, my daughter stopped joining in at groups. She had been going to swimming and gymnastics classes for some time but suddenly became scared and clingy. I could see that she was showing classic signs of shyness, whereas my husband seemed to think she was being naughty.

I read up on shyness, and made some interesting discoveries. It is now believed that shyness is frequently genetic, so when my mum and grandma told me that everyone in our family was shy or reserved, they weren’t talking nonsense! It’s possible that my daughter is going through a phase, brought on by separation anxiety, but the older she gets – she’s 3 now – the less likely this seems.

I found some helpful advice online*

  • Don’t label your child as shy
  • Be sympathetic
  • Offer encouragement

*Baby Center (USA site)

  • Don’t criticise (shyness is not rudeness or naughtiness!)
  • Don’t avoid social situations
  • Find less stressful ways for your child to socialise

We had to consider the last two points when we arranged our daughter’s birthday party. We needed an activity that she’d be comfortable with, and the right number of children to enable her to socialise without feeling intimidated.

  • Shyness is a subject that generated a lot of comments when I asked for opinions on our Facebook page.
  • Several mums commented that their children were apparently disinterested in groups, but would re-enact chunks of them and claim to enjoy them when they got home.
  • Some suggested that talking to other parents and children in groups can help your child recognise that interacting with people isn’t scary.
  • Amelia, who teaches performing arts, said the following: “So many mums come once and spot that the child didn’t join in so don’t return… It’s so silly. An adult would feel uncomfy going to, say, a new gym… To a child it’s a very scary thing too. The child needs time to nurture, in the environment/space/with staff/other children/surroundings… For those parents who do work with me to ease their shy child in (this can be alongside tears, screams and can also be stressful for a mummy), I’d say 90% settle within 6-10 weeks fully… I often have parents request I don’t ask questions of their shy child, what does this create?”

I have no way of knowing whether my daughter will continue to be shy, but I’m determined she won’t miss out on opportunities because of it.

Photo Credit: lady_lbrty / Foter / CC BY

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