Is Your Child Shy? Single Moms We’ve Got Advice for You!
By Susan Bartell, Psy.D
It’s always tough to know when, as single mothers, we should step into our kids’ social lives and help them during hard times and when we should let them figure it out on their own. As a parent it can be terribly painful to watch a child being left out, teased or bullied. We have the urge to jump in and fix it immediately. And at times this is the best solution…but not always! A parent’s response may need to differ depending upon a child’s personality, his or her age, the specific situation, how much distress the child is experiencing, how well the teacher is handling it and even whether the child wants a parent to become involved. In fact, within one family, you may need to treat one child’s situation very differently than you would another.
In your daughter’s case, it is important that you not leave her alone to fight her own battles. To begin with, she is experiencing what we call ‘anticipatory anxiety’—which is exactly what it sounds like…she is already anticipating being left out by the other girls. Without help from you, she will begin school having convinced herself that she can’t make new friends and that she won’t fit in. This will impact her self-confidence and she won’t be able to effectively overcome her shyness. You can begin helping her immediately by teaching her ways of being assertive. Practicing these with her will be the most important. For example:
· Encourage her to order her own meals at restaurants.
· At the playground, pool or beach prompt her to introduce
herself to another child to play with even for a little while.
· Support her in answering the phone and making phonecalls
(speaking in a clear, loud voice).
When the school year is about to begin, not only should you continue practicing these skills, but add another element—role playing how she can talk to the other girls during the beginning days of school—using her newly found, loud, confident voice. The more she practices (with you or a sibling role-playing her peers), the more confident she will become.
As the school year progresses, don’t give up practicing any of these techniques with her. The consistent rehearsal will be important as she goes through rough spots. In addition, when she finds one or two girls who she’d like to have as friends, this is another time where your involvement can be useful. Call up their parents and invite them over to play. Once your daughter has even one solid friend, her self-confidence will fly.
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