Shy children are naturally good observers. The problem comes when they want to join in and can't figure out how to make friends. Walking up and saying, "Can I play?", can backfire when one snotty child says, "No."
Before trying something new, join a group, or make a new friend, extremely timid children can benefit from changing the way they talk to themselves.
1. Control thoughts. If making friends is a difficult ongoing battle for your child, address the things that they may be telling themselves. Negative self-talk can shut a shy child down faster than any bully. Give them alternatives to the possible phrases running amok in their mind. But more important, have them change the negatives to positives they can believe, in their own words.
"Nobody likes me." change to, "The people who know me, like me."
"I'm going to mess up." change to, "I'm doing my best."
"Everyone is staring at me." change to, "So."
"I don't know what I'm doing." change to, "I know as much as the other kids."
Practice deflecting the negative with positives. Build confidence by having them counteract their own statements, rather than simply encouraging with your own praise.
2. Play Worst Case Scenario. Shy kids sometimes over think events, sabotaging any possible breakthrough. Go ahead and indulge them. Ask what the worst thing they can imagine happening, and figure out a plan to deal with it. Some children are helped when the worst case scenario is taken to the extreme. Let them really use their imagination to come up with fanciful situations, and then flip it around to implement a plan to deal with it. If nothing else they will probably have fun with this exercise and realize their worst fears are probably far-fetched.
3.Visualize Success. Explain how athletes picture themselves playing their sport to the very best of their ability and how using their imagination actually helps. Unlike worst case scenario, take a child through the events of the upcoming day and have them imagine it going fantastic. Mentally rehearse being confident and comfortable in a crowd. Use as many specifics as possible to make it real. If your child is getting ready to attend a birthday party and is becoming anxious, step back and go through the possible steps; greeting the birthday child, laughing at jokes, playing games and choosing to sit next to someone nice at the table for cake and ice cream.
4. Build Memories. Remember times in their life when they made a new friend, or had fun playing in a group. Look back over photos and relive some of the memories during a quiet moment. Be sure your child acknowledges improvement and takes credit for their successes.
5. Accept themselves. Point out different personalities, in the family and among close friends. Show them how different people behave in groups. Rename qualities in a positive light. Encourage them to think of themselves as fine "just the way they are."