Ten ways to help your shy child adjust to school

by Melissa Jaramillo

Shy ChildA shy child faces a disadvantage in our outgoing, busy culture.

What we may perceive as a "nothing," could be a mountain of fear, nervousness or freeze ray for these wallflower children.

As parents, it can be a challenge to figure out what will help our children break out of the shyness mold.

Shy kids may have a harder time relaxing and connecting with other children.

Sometimes shyness can compromise their school performance and development.

How can you help your shy child get off to a good start? How can you help without overparenting or smothering?

Ten time-tested tips for success

1. Get acquainted with the teacher

Introduce your child to their teacher. Have him or her color a picture as a gift to help break the ice and just say "hello." If possible, connect with one or two other students before the first day of school for a playdate. This allows them to have a familiar face available to help each other during the day!

2. Take a tour of the school

Having you by their side as they learn their way around reduces the fear factor. Check to see if your child's school has a "big sister/big brother" program where older students are paired with the new ones. Make arrangements to meet before the big day to reinforce familiarity.

3. Read books about school

Time to hit the library! Check out books that introduce your child to a typical school day. You'll likely be able to find one that showcases their favorite characters going to school. This gives them an inkling as to what to expect.

4. Prepare them academically

Turn every day events into learning experiences. Count apples as you put them in the fruit basket. Teach letter recognition by pointing out labels and signs. Help them trace their name, draw shapes, and letters.

5. Talk about nervousness

Teach your child that nervousness affects most people. You can try to help your tot overcome it by shifting the focus. For instance, teach her to ask other kids questions and listen to their answers.

6. Practice basic social skills

Some kids need to be taught how to make eye contact, shake hands, smile, and respond to chit-chat appropriately. Role play how to join a game on the playground, introduce themselves to another child at a party, or initiate a playdate.

7. Generate excitement about school

Help your child catch the excitement with a special school shopping experience. Let them have some input on what clothes to wear (unless they wear uniforms), selecting a backpack, notebooks and pencils.

8. Tuck away something familiar

Select a small, tangible object your child can take to school as a reminder of you. Be careful that your choice wouldn't be forbidden by the school. A special coin or trinket tucked in their pocket; a bookmark that holds special meaning; or perhaps a favorite character tucked in or tied on their backpack.

9. Make plans to celebrate

Do something special together "after school" and remind your child to think about that celebration if they're having a tough moment.

10. Keep encouraging!

It takes time to adjust to new routines and get to know other kids. Provide your child with a safe place to vent their feelings, but continue looking for ways to break out of their shell. Tap into one of their passions such as sports, dance, or music after school as a way to connect with other students with something they love doing!

Do you have a wallflower? What do you do?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.