Recently the New York Times posted an opinion piece, in their Health section, about shy children.
I was once a very shy child. I would rarely talk in class. Some of it was because I was lightly bullied and afraid to open my mouth due to fear of reprisals, but a lot of it was due to the anxiety of getting something wrong. I wanted to be in control of what I said and how people saw me, so talking less was part of taking that control. It took me until university to really start working on the shyness and I did begin to speak up in classes during my sophomore year. It was liberating. And I learned that, sometimes, saying the wrong thing was a good thing…I would learn and thus become better at my process of thinking.
If your child is shy and seems to be struggling at school, the gist of the article is that you should talk to him or her. We don’t want to ‘pathologize’ shyness, but we also want to make sure kids aren’t in needless distress. The article gives some great suggestions to parents on how to work with their shy kid. For me, it was all about feeling more comfortable with a few things – that is was okay to not be perfect, that learning was more important than being right, to have the skills on speaking in public, learning relaxation techniques and doing a few ‘acting as if’ sessions.