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Breaking kids out of their comfort zone

Raising shy children

Parenting is sometimes a challenging endeavor.

You feel all of your child’s successes and failures as if they were you own. You even feel your child’s sense of anxiety if she is shy or reluctant to try new experiences.

Contributed by Jyl Camhi

As a parent, I know that children have different ways of adapting to new situations. It’s important that every parent understands that all kids are not the same. One child may be spunky and outgoing right from the get-go, while others may require a little more encouragement. Communicating with others and the ability to jump right into new environments and experiences comes naturally to some people, but it might be a nightmare for kids who are apprehensive with new people and new experiences. Below are a few tips that might help your child overcome any apprehension they may experience with new activities such as sports leagues, lessons and classes.

Read about how far to push kids at sports >>

Look for peer leaders in the class

It’s common for children to pick up behaviors from their peers. When you bring your child to a new activity, take the time to ask the teacher to identify the peer leaders. Maybe it’s a child who has participated in past sessions. Outgoing children tend to go out of their way to make others around them feel more comfortable. It’s a win-win situation because your child will have a positive role model to feed off of while having the opportunity to make a new friend!

Interacting with peer leaders will also boost your child’s confidence. The more comfortable your child is with their friends, the more social he becomes in the long run.

Prepare for new experiences

Going to a new place for the first time can be exciting for kids, but it can also be frightening! Whether you are dropping your child off at practice for the first time or preparing her for her first field trip, take the time to educate your child about her new surroundings.

You can do this by sharing pictures of the gym or zoo. Try to incorporate images that include children of similar age so your own son or daughter can make the personal connection.

Find out how after-school activities can benefit your child >>

Sometimes leaving helps

I will never forget how difficult it was to leave my children at school for the first time. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes leaving helps. It builds their sense of independence. You don’t want to give your child the impression that they will always have you as a crutch.

If your child struggles with separating, ask questions to find a place that is sensitive to this and has a plan for it. For instance, at Great Play it is typical for children to start taking the independent classes at 3 years old, but not every child follows the same pattern. We work with parents to move children from the parent-child class to the independent class earlier or later based on when the child is ready. We can make it a gradual process of moving from the gym floor together, to being visible in the entrance, to being right outside, to being gone.

Introducing your shy child to new activities and experiences can be a challenging task and change doesn’t happen overnight. Try to slowly start implementing some of these tips to make your child’s transitions a little bit easier for both of you.

About the author: Jyl Camhi is the mother of two sons and co-founder of Great Play — a franchised kids’ gym that offers a developmental, hands-on approach to learning motor skills, sports skills, and physical education for children ages six months through fifth grade. Great Play currently has 13 locations open or in development across the country. About 20 locations are expected by the end of 2012. For more information, visit www.greatplay.com.

More about raising shy kids

How to help your shy child extend himself
Encouraging shy children to break out
Helping your shy child become more confident

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