Missing out on opportunities

Aug 18 2016.

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Helping your children overcome their shyness

As your children make the transition from Nursery School into Big School, they'll encounter many obstacles that will test them. Everything is new, everything is different and everything is scary. For the child who is confident, it might be a momentary setback; once he/she becomes familiar with the teachers and routines, the hesitation and shyness is forgotten and he/she becomes an active participant.

But every child is different and some lack the forwardness that others possess. Naturally shy, these children let their shyness overcome them and tend to miss out on opportunities presented to them. A musically gifted child will choose not to display his talents when asked, or a timid child will not display his knowledge due to a lack of confidence. 

Mrs. Hiranya Fernando, Principal of Methodist College talked about shyness, from a teacher's point of view:

"First and foremost, teachers and parents need to understand that being shy or timid is not a weakness; it isn't something that needs to be overcome or corrected, unless it proves to be an obstacle to the child's normal functioning. The best thing to do is to create an environment at home, in the classroom, where the child can blossom at his/her own pace and in a way that is naturally comfortable to them.

Don't put your shy child in the limelight, as a means of forcing them to overcome their shyness. Instead, focus on things that they have a natural interest in - e.g. art, handwork - things that they can do well. That way you are creating an environment where he/she is happy and has the potential to succeed. That will build confidence eventually."

As parents, we are all too familiar with our little ones clinging to our legs, refusing to talk to anyone and generally being quiet and non participative in class. When you're aware of your child's potential, it can become frustrating and you might feel obligated to change the situation for the better.

However as Mrs. Fernando says, rather than force, we must cultivate an environment that will help the naturally shy child to thrive and overcome any setbacks.


Here are a few tips on helping your child overcome his/her shyness:

1. The first few days of Big School will definitely be daunting, therefore, if possible accompany your child as much as possible. Introduce new friends in your presence; you can initially do the introductions and slowly let the children start communicating. Friends with common interests are a comfort for an already intimidated child.

2. Meet and greet the teacher with your child. Take a few minutes and allow your child to get to know the teacher. You can possibly relate to the teacher that your child is naturally shy, but do not do it in the presence of the child. For they will use it as a shield to hide behind and not overcome. By letting the teacher know, they can opt not to put your child on the spot. 

3. Give your child the opportunity to practise at home. Be it trying to talk to a friend, introducing themselves or giving a small speech in class, help them build their confidence and then the timid child will not have to worry about what he/she has to say, in addition to the emotional stress.

4. Do not get frustrated and exasperated with your child. This can easily happen, but hold yourself back from acting drastically. If you force your child to do something that he/she dreads, it will only make matters worse. Instead focus.

5. When feeling shy, the child feels under stress and shuts down. Some might even end up in tears and even feign mysterious physical ailments to avoid the situation. Understand that it is timidness holding back your child. Together, form a few words of encouragement, a motto, a little confidence boosting speech. Tell your child to think about that and use it as a calm and reassuring tool.

Shyness is, after all, a personality trait. Rather than fight it, we must accept it and deal with it as best as possible. As the child becomes confident in him/herself, the shyness will slowly dissipate, and he/she will grow up to be a confident individual. 

Written by Mayuri Jayasinghe based on an interview with Hiranya Fernando, Principal, Methodist College.




Mayuri Jayasinghe

Mayuri Jayasinghe plays many roles in her life but her most important and quite baffling role is that of being mother to her four children. She is the voice behind 'Parenting Life' for LIFE. A regular contributor to Women at Work and the Little Enquirer. Follow Mayuri on her Facebook page, The Parenting Club.



  1. Sam says:

    Thank you for that very insightful article, I am a single parent who was shy and still am, as luck would have it appears my son has taken after his mother and brimming with confidence. I have personally experienced most items stated therein, thank you again.

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