Each toddler has their own personality and temperament, this can be particularly clear when out in social situations. Some will appear to be outgoing while others may become withdrawn and shy.
The majority of toddlers may become shy in different social situations such as at a birthday party or in the playground, but most will grow out of their shyness as they begin to feel more comfortable with who they are. However, for a few who have the inborn trait of shyness they will carry this temperament into adulthood.
Some signs of shyness include:
- Being timid, cautious and clingy
- Unwilling to join in
- Slow to engage.
To help support your toddler with their shyness here are a few pointers:
Accept Your Toddler’s Shyness
Don’t think of your toddler’s shyness as a weakness, which can be difficult if you are naturally outgoing yourself.
Also be aware of how you treat other children who may be more outgoing. Be careful not to give them extra praise or compare them with your shy toddler. You could hurt your little one’s feelings which could affect their self-esteem.
Avoid Labelling Them
If your toddler hears you calling them shy to others, it may stick in their mind and exacerbate their shyness. It could even lead to them avoiding situations which are uncomfortable because they think they are too ‘shy’.
Encouraging Your Toddler
Help them establish friendships with other toddlers who are pleasant and not intimidating or aggressive. If you see your toddler in the playground looking over at a group of children playing and not knowing how to join in, gently suggest a way for them to participate, such as ‘Why donât you show them your new toy?’ With your toddler’s permission, hold their hand, approach the group and ask if you can to join in the play. Stay as long as your little one needs you, then move away when they are comfortable.
Let your toddler know you love them, and provide all the reassurance and support they need to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Practice and Improve Skills at Home
In the comfort of your home, teach your toddler to know what to say and what do in social settings. You could try teaching aids such as books and toys.
Prepare for Situations
Recognising the situations in which your toddler is shy allows you to help prepare them e.g. on the way to a family gathering, spend a couple of minutes before the gathering talking positively about who might be there, the activities that may take place and how to say hello and goodbye to everyone.
Shyness can become an issue if it effects your toddler’s development, e.g. making friends or talking to adults outside your immediate family.
If you are concerned about your toddler’s shyness, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional.