Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three Tips for Helping Your Shy Child

Middle school is ruthless when it comes to friendships. Children are often caught off guard as they transition from the elementary school mindset of "everyone is friends" to the middle school mentality of social ladders and the "in" crowd. A shy child navigating these uncharted waters can quickly find herself drowning in social scenarios she feels unprepared to handle. How does a parent help her shy child without micro-managing? Glynnis Whitwer, author of When Your Child Is Hurting: Helping Your Kids Survive the Ups and Downs of Life, offers several tips.

Coach your child in conversation. "We practiced," admits Whitwer, who is the mother of a shy child. "We went over how to have a conversation, and how to ask the other person open-ended questions." Rehearse different social situations with your child, coming up with opening lines, positive comments, and interesting questions.

Encourage your shy child to be an inviter. Whitwer recommends asking your shy child who he wants to get to know. Then, create opportunities for affordable activities and outings and invite that friend to come along.
Invest in your child's interests. "When your child is involved in something he likes, he will find other friends who like those same things," says Whitwer. "You just need to be sure you figure it out in an affordable way." Scouting, sports, or group lessons (music, dance, or art) all come with a group of potential friends.

Season of Change
"My shy child is never going to be the kid with a lot of friends," says Whitwer. "I have to coach him in solving the problem of loneliness without stepping in." And that, dear readers, is the balancing act of parenting middle schoolers: coaching from the sidelines, rather than stepping onto the field.

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