Most toddlers are sociable, happy to chat to just about anyone and
make their presence felt in any situation-in fact, their confidence is
often enviable! But what if your child is the opposite-shy and quiet? Is
he destined to be a wallflower for the rest of his life? And how can you
boost her social skills?
According to child psychologist Dheeraj Mistry, there are three main
reasons why some children are shy. The first is genetics. “Your child
may have a genetic propensity towards being sensitive to social
situations,” he explains. “he’s just more acutely aware of his social
environment.”If you’re shy yourself, it mar rub off on your toddler.
Mums who are anxious in public may be less likely to put their tots in
social situations, such as toddler groups, meaning they too are less
confident with other people. Finally, your toddler’s development can
have an effect. For example, if he’s clumsy, he may be aware that he
can’t quite keep up with other children, which might cause shyness.
There’s a difference, however, between shyness and stubbornness.
“After his initial hesitation, your shy child is more than likely to relax
and want to become part of the group,” explains Dheeraj. “However, if
your child is stubborn, he’ll refuse to join in for the entire duration of
BREAKING THE ICE
THE best way to help your toddler overcome his shyness is to let him
see you interacting comfortable in social situations. “If you’re shy, try to
put your anxieties aside,” advises Dheeraj. Your shy toddler will feel
anxious in large groups, so start by setting up experiences with one or
two other people. These can be adult or children but, warns Dheeraj,
make sure you choose children who aren’t likely to be too rough, loud
or outgoing to avoid intimidating your tot even more. Before each new
social experience, talk to your toddler about the activity and the people
involved. It helps to provide predictable routines, so he realizes what
you’re about to do. For example, if you’re going to a mother and
toddler group, he could help you pack a bag and choose a toy to take.
Once you arrive, don’t push him into the throng-he’ll need time to
adjust. Offer your toddler frequent opportunities to be in new
situations. “Even five minutes at the playground or 10 minutes at a
party will help,” says clinical child psychologist Dr Anand Sharma.
“Don’t avoid these situations because you think it’ll make your toddler
uncomfortable. Avoiding anxiety-provoking situations will only
encourage your toddler’s shyness”.
Give your tot lots of child gentle encouragement and rewards for being
brave. For example, at a party say, ‘If you play with Bhavin for five
minutes, I’ll call you when the time’s up and we can have some birthday
cake.’ “This allows your child to explore the new situation for a short
time, knowing that he can come back to his ‘safe base’-you,” says Dr
Sharma. It’s important not to draw attention to your child’s shyness.
Get on with life, chat to friends in the street and invite people to your
house. “Try not to explain your toddler’s behavior with comments like,
‘He’s very shy’, as this will become a label that your toddler takes on
even more, he says.
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