Shyness is a very complex condition. It sounds simple, but in fact each shy individual has unique problems.
Shyness hides behind many masks – happy, sad, angry, bland or bored faces.
It is a state in which an individual is unduly cautious and reluctant about approaching or being approached by others. 8 out of 10 people feel shy at some stage of their lives which leads to anxiety, feeling socially inadequate and communication difficulties.
What is shyness?
Shyness is primarily a function of learning. Shy people have either learned maladaptive behaviours or have missed the opportunity to learn social behaviours which will enable them to make and keep friends.
Everybody has experiences in their past that reinforce certain attitudes. If they felt they were never trusted, for example, they find it difficult to believe in themselves. Similarly, everybody has had an embarrassing experience at some time, but we should not allow it to stand as proof that we are incompetent.
On the contrary, we should all be able to identify our personal strengths and abilities and finish most days feeling positive about ourselves.
What are the consequences of shyness?
Three problems which come from shyness are anxiety, poor social skills and low self-esteem. Of these, I think the most important is low self-esteem. For a person to have a healthy self-esteem they must feel loved by the significant people in their lives. If it doesn’t bother the person who is shy and if he or she prefers to be alone – well and good.
The problem lies with the person who wants to relate to others and feels he or she can’t. An indication that a teenager is shy will probably be that he or she won’t want to be involved in group activities. He or she may agree to an outing but at the last moment show reluctance to go, perhaps finding an excuse such as sudden sickness not to do so. A shy adolescent will often have school reports which say he or she is not participating in class activities or could participate more. Finally and most poignantly, a shy child will have a few playmates and no close friends during later years.
12 tips for parents of shy children
- Be supportive and understanding – everyone can be shy at some time in his or her life.
- Make every effort to communicate – but not so that you might seem to be hassling and hounding.
- Compliment the shy teenager on his/her personal strengths.
- Be trusting – establish firm, fair rules for behaviour and trust your adolescent to abide by them.
- When reprimanding an adolescent avoid character destroying name-calling like “don’t be so stupid.” Specify the point you are trying to make such as “I am disappointed you were home at 1.30am when we agreed upon 12 o’clock.”
- Involve father as much as possible. Research shows that adolescents with a high self-esteem came from families where the father was closely involved in family events and with the children in the family.
- Help the adolescent clarify his/her career goals, visit training programmes, work through the career possibilities together.
- Look for opportunities where the adolescent can meet others who share common interests – tennis, music, etc.
- Take every opportunity to express your feelings from “I love you” to “I am angry with you when you…”
- Encourage open discussion and debate at home and respect the views expressed by your children.
- Encourage the teenager to invite his/her friends home.
- Teenagers can be acutely sensitive to being embarrassed. Help them to learn how to constructively laugh at themselves and have another go at the task which caused them embarrassment.