Is your toddler shy around other people? Toddler shyness is actually really common, but that doesn’t stop you worrying when your usually bold and forceful child becomes a nervous, shrinking violet around others.
It can be really upsetting to witness your little one getting distressed in social situations. It’s difficult to know how to handle the situation and if you should acknowledge it at all. Some parents even start to avoid potentially distressing situations so their toddler won’t get upset. So what exactly is toddler shyness and how should you handle it? Even if your toddler is extremely, painfully shy, don’t worry – we can work through it.
Understanding Toddler Shyness
There are three main reasons toddlers go through shy phases. The first is they actually have very little experience dealing with social situations. Therefore, their social skills aren’t fully developed and they can find it really overwhelming when faced with new, unfamiliar people.
The second reason shyness often starts showing during the toddler years is because your child may be naturally shy. Remember, this is the stage where they are becoming their own little people and part of their personality could be shyness. There is evidence to suggest some babies are simply born shy and it’s linked to genetics.
Finally, it could be down to separation anxiety. Most children go through several stages of separation anxiety, where they appear much clingier than usual. Being away from you will be distressing, so you’ll find they tend to stick by your side the majority of the time.
Whatever the reason, it is worrying but is it something that will just disappear on its own?
Will The Shyness Go Away?
Most of the time, these periods of shyness are only temporary. However, there is the chance your child will always be a little bit timid. It all depends upon the cause of the shyness.
If it’s brought on by natural separation anxiety, the problem will eventually go away as your little one becomes more independent. If it’s happening because your toddler doesn’t have adequate social skills just yet, then again it will start to fade as they become more socially aware. However, if it’s genetic and part of their personality then there’s a good chance that shyness will always be present, however there are ways to help your child deal with this as they get older.
How To Handle Toddler Shyness
So the big question is, how should you handle it when your child buries their head against your legs and hides away when people try to talk to them? Or worse, if they go into a full-blown meltdown?
Below you’ll discover some of the best tips that can help…
1. Try to avoid labelling them as “shy”
It’s true, your child is shy. Their behavior is categorized as such and you know that’s what the problem is. However, it’s very important to avoid actually saying this to your toddler. Why? Because if you start using the word shy to describe them, the label will stick and it can actually encourage the behavior.
There’s also the chance they will take the word shy as a negative criticism, making them feel like they are different to everyone else. This in turn can lead to further problems socializing. Now, it’s more difficult than it sounds to stop using the word shy around your little one. A lot of the time, you’ll find strangers who do come up and chat will automatically say “Are you feeling shy today?”. It’s unavoidable, but what you could do is correct them and say “No, he just takes a little time to warm up to people”.
2. Let them know you understand
Just because you shouldn’t use the word shy to your toddler, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t acknowledge the problem at all. In fact, drawing attention to the fact by letting them know it’ ok to feel the way they do, can be really helpful.
Say you take them to a toddler playgroup. The noise and sheer number of other toddlers around can make timid toddlers feel scared and nervous. You could try saying something along the lines of “It’s hard when it’s very noisy in here isn’t it?” This may be a simple sentence, but it lets your little one know it is natural to feel the way they do right now and there might be other people feeling the same way.
3. Practice social skills at home
If the reason behind the shyness is the fact your toddler doesn’t have the right social skills to know how to respond to other people, role-playing at home can be an excellent idea. You could organize a little teddy tea party for example. Pretend all of the teddies are other children and then practice the type of things your child should say.
Role-playing really helps your toddler develop additional skills and boosts their confidence when they are faced with similar, real-life situations.
Overall, toddler shyness is common and it isn’t something you need to be worried about. The most important thing is to avoid making them feel like there’s something wrong with them for being shy. The worse you make them feel about their shyness, the longer it will continue.
Of course, there are more ideas, tips, and suggestions that have worked wonders for helping shy toddlers become a little more outgoing. If you have any of your own you’d like to share, we’d all love to hear them as well!