Your child is clinging to your leg, refusing point blank to participate in activities that involve others. Your kid hides behind you and doesn't want to let go. Other kids, on the other hand, throw themselves into the games – trying the slide, stealing each other's toys and digging in the sand pit.
Sometimes taking a shy child to the playground can be a frustrating experience. You probably wish you could do something about it – to help them.
You can also read our article on the route to friendship.
Shyness can mean anxiety in new situations
Shyness is pretty common. During certain periods, we are all more or less careful in our interaction with others, particularly during the separation phases.
Some children are naturally less extroverted than others. They need more time to adapt to a new environment. They aren't sure about groups, and so avoid them. They can get nervous in new, unfamiliar situations, such as when they meet other children at nursery. They can be troubled by too much attention. Leaving mummy or daddy can be a huge problem.
A cautious attitude to life
Sometimes this shyness only lasts a short while, and so it's always good to be patient. Scolding or rebuffing your child doesn't help. In fact it will probably extend the period of shyness and make the child feel even less secure.
Read how to improve your child's self-esteem.
If it isn't just a phase, you have to have even more patience and hope your child eventually grows out of their shyness. Studies show that just 40 per cent of shy toddlers overcome this by the time they start nursery. Most shy children continue to take a cautious approach to life.
Are you worried that your child may have autistic traits? Read about autism and ADHD here.
Shy children need patient parents
How can you help? Research shows that parents who gently try to encourage and loosely supervise their child's social activities are more successful than parents who micromanage and supervise too closely. In other words, shy children tend to need less pushy parents. They need parents who are calm, understanding and sensitive.
• Say you understand how it feels. Calmly acknowledge your child's feelings. Don't get frustrated.
• Give them plenty of time to get used to the idea of nursery. Arrive there extra early in the morning, before there's a noisy group of kids there. More tips on starting nursery.
• One on one. Instead of forcing your child to be sociable, try to create situations that aren't too overwhelming, such as one on one playdates.
• Let your child watch the others for a while and figure out what's going on. Offer one or two suggestions as to how he or she could get started, but let the child decide when to join in. Be patient. Don't push – it could have the opposite effect.
• Praise your child when they try to be sociable.
• If your child is older, you can talk about how to behave in social situations.
• If you join in and play for a little while, this sometimes helps your child practise the new social skills that you may be demonstrating.
• Don't stop trying to participate in social situations, even if your child simply watches from the sidelines. He or she will gradually become more comfortable with the idea of joining in the other children's games.
Shyness is a matter of personality. Your child may be careful and take their time in trusting new people. Never reject your child's feelings; they are by definition not silly. Here are some tips for helping your child if he or she is shy.