- It’s normal to be concerned if your child is reluctant to jump into school activities, but try not to worry too much. If your child is in preschool, she may still be learning how to interact with other children and participate in groups.
Not every child is an enthusiastic learner who’s always eager to participate in classroom activities. Shy or reserved children are usually hesitant to speak out in class, resist group activities, and may prefer to play alone quietly, away from the group.
It’s normal to be concerned if your child is reluctant to jump into school activities, but try not to worry too much. If your child is in preschool, she may still be learning how to interact with other children and participate in groups.
Kindergartners and children in the early grades who get along fine with other children may continue to adjust to the social environment at school. It can take time for them to be comfortable with classroom rules and routines.
As time goes by, your child may get used to school but still feel anxious about participating. Just as personalities differ, children vary tremendously in how they engage in school activities.
Some children take longer than others to adjust to a new school, daily classroom routine, or teacher, but they eventually open up. Others stay shy – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Normal shyness is not a problem to be fixed.
Your child doesn’t need to be a gung-ho, first-in-line student to learn. But easing her fears even a little can make school a more enjoyable learning experience.
How can I encourage my shy child?
Don’t push. “The absolute first thing parents need to think about is respecting where their child is in the classroom and very incrementally moving them forward, instead of pushing them,” says Meg Zweiback, a nurse practitioner, family consultant, and associate clinical professor at the University of California at San Francisco.
Talk to the teacher
Meet with his teacher to discuss how your child acts in class and ask what you can do to help make the classroom an engaging and comfortable place. Compare notes between school and home. What activities does your child love at home that aren’t part of the lesson plan? What does your child dislike that he is expected to do at school? Work out a plan with his teacher to support your child.
Bring his interests to school
For example, if your child loves to learn about bugs at home, but insects aren’t part of the science curriculum, let him bring the home material to the classroom. Make sure the teacher doesn’t force your child to make a formal presentation, but ask to set up an opportunity for your child to talk or answer questions. The teacher could hold a discussion using your child’s materials as visual aids, or create a bug station based on your child’s supplies.
Even if your child doesn’t speak up right away, just having his favourite things in the classroom can ease his shyness. It’s a way for him to participate and feel a sense of belonging without being verbal, which is a start. Even sharing a book your child loves can help.
Go to school
Your presence in the classroom can help your shy child feel more comfortable at school. Your schedule may not allow for regular or lengthy classroom visits, but even just touching base now and then gives you a chance to observe. Try to take advantage of opportunities to help in the classroom. Most children consider it a treat when a parent visits the class.
Set her up for success
Look for school activities that give your child chances for success, suggests Dale Walker, a professor of child development at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “Your child may be avoiding things she doesn’t think she can do,” she says. If you think this is the case, talk to the teacher about giving your child a helping hand.
If your kindergartner isn’t very coordinated with scissors or glue, ask if painting or drawing is an option. If your grade-schooler can’t spell the majority of words on the current spelling list, ask the teacher to include some easier words. “If the activity is over the child’s head, you want to tone it down. Make sure your child doesn’t get frustrated,” Walker says. It’s important for your child to develop her skills, and a little extra support early on can boost her confidence and help her take on more challenging activities.
On the other hand, activities that are too easy could be boring your child. If you suspect boredom is the problem, work with the teacher on ways to give your child more challenging projects. Maybe the teacher could give your child materials from a higher grade or extra assignments.